The Catholic Defender: Iraq in the Archive part 3
The 2-5 Cavalry deployed to Iraq beginning in October 2006. We first spent a couple of weeks to in process into the Theater of Operation and to our designated area of responsibility.
The Battalion area and the bulk of our Companies were on FOB Victory and this is where I would maintain my Troop Medical Clinic sharing with other Units combining our assets.
Our day to day operations were never routine, covering our Units with medical coverage depended on having competent Medics. We had the best and through everything, we tried to find our time to be able to bunk down. I was the Medical Platoon Sergeant and responsible for the Preventive Med, the Field Sanitation, Detainees, Unit Movement Officer, I wore a lot of hats. I also went outside the wire to inspect the Battalion for sensitive items, accountability of the line Medics, not to mention details the First Sergeant might be responsible for.
The following are opportunities I was able to fill in the gaps. If I had any personal time, I utilized that for serving the Lord and the Troops. The following quotes I hope to share a glimpse into what the "Catholic Defender's" day might consume.
December 3,2006, I wrote, "A most interesting development is taking place here in Iraq. It concerns the Chaplains. I was called in by our Battalion Chaplain who explained to me that the Division or Brigade Chaplain (the guy in charge of the chaplains) was concerned of a "Catholic" bible study. Our chaplain defended us and me in particular, but it was weird talking to him about it. I told him that this is a ridicules issue. We are not sure where this is coming from (exactly) but we have the Catholic Priest in charge of us standing behind us. It seems that the "Protestant" Chaplains are wanting only "Protestant" bible studies. I asked our Chaplain what it would look like if it was a Catholic Priest who was the Division Chaplain trying to suppress Protestant bible studies. Could you imagine the uproar over that? I made my point, and we are still on for our bible study this coming Tuesday evening. I think the issue might even give us a push as word gets out about it. If we had to, we would move into the MWR tent or someplace if we had too. Just the idea of it. After I spoke with the Priest, he was very interested in getting my help to start the RCIA program here in Irag! Wow, that would be great!!!
December 5, "We held the Catholic Bible study tonight and it went well. We had quite a few people tonight and I think the Steve Ray series are excellent. I went over the questions that supplement the topic and was able to add lib a lot. It was fun as I was able to get a lot of participation. I think the problem has been solved!
December 9, Another piece of news, our Doctor that is supporting us is coming to our Bible study. He is interested in learning about the bible and looking at Christianity. We have been talking a lot about the Catholic Church and the bible on our off time. He has been very receptive so far. He is informing his wife what he is learning. Keep the prayers coming!
January 9, 2007, Tonight, at the bible study, I was covering the second chapter of St. Peter from Steve Ray's "The Footprints of God" series. I had a soldier come up afterwords, who made the bible study tonight for the first time, came to me and told me that he wants to become a Catholic. He thanked me for the presentation and discussion and promised to be back next week for chapter three! That will cover the Keys!!! I'm always amazed at what the Lord does!
January 10, Today, we had two Iraqi soldiers come through us who had gun shot wounds to the abdomen and the other was hit twice in the leg. One of the Iraqi interpreters that I met today, was there to talk to the soldiers and comfort them while we cared for them. Later tonight, I went to the Welcoming center to call Gigi when I met the same interpreter who was insistent that he was going to our bible study on Tuesday. I thought to myself, "that is cool"!
January 12, Tomorrow, RCIA begins and so I'm excited to get started with that. Father asked me to take the lead so I really look forward to the challenge! For me, this is part of "Restore The Vineyard" that I've been working on for awhile! I've received some rosaries and religious medals that I can use (thanks Doug and JoAnn) for those who are wanting to know their faith, or investigate it. The Lord calls us to go out and gather them in. I encourage you, if you haven't already, to think about helping out in your Parish. Maybe you can serve as a sponsor, or work on the team in some way. If you feel led to teach, we need you!!! Especially if your loyal to the Church! We definitely need you!!!
January 13, Tonight at RCIA, one of our Catachumens is from the Mormon Church who is seeking to become a Catholic! It is great that we have a mix of just about everything in the melting pot. We have a lot to do in a short time to get it done! Does that sound familiar? I passed out some rosaries and religious medals to the people, thanks Doug and JoAnn for the contribution! It is greatly appreciated!! The Lord bless all of you!!
January 15, Thanks St. Monica and King's Daughter! So far, I am doing well. We continue to exhibit why we are the greatest force this world has ever known!!! Today, I spoke with a soldier that I hadn't had much a chance to talk with for a good while. He came to the TMC today and we were able to talk about the faith. He was raised CoC (Church of Christ) and has thought about some of our previous conversations. He has pledged to play guitar for us at Mass, which could be a beginning!!! He is interested in the DVD's that I have with Steve Ray! What a great source of information, interesting commentary, visual affects. I recommend them to anyone! Later that day, That same soldier came up to me tonight all excited as he was able to get a sponsor for RCIA!! That is cool!
January 15, I spoke with another soldier today who is now interested in joining RCIA!!! He became excited when I told him what to expect in the class. I really think this one will come through as well!!! That's two in under a week!!! I'll let you know if he comes or not, but I think he will! I know where he sleeps!!!!
January 16, This soldier showed up to the bible study tonight along with the other one, both of whom will be in the RCIA! He was getting with me tonight as I taught him how to find books in the bible, chapters and verses, Old and New Testament. It was a good beginning and what really made it great was his heart. That is so important!
January 17, Now that you mention it, I was here at the TMC posting on DCL when one of my soldiers approached me telling me that there was somebody out front looking for me. I logged out, went to the front looking for maybe the Sergeant Major, maybe somebody from the company. There was this lady standing by the check in counter who stopped me and told me she was the one looking for me. She had gone to the Chapel looking for someone who could help her as she wanted to lector at Mass. The Chaplain sent her to find me! Well, we definitely can use her gift! She is also interested in our bible study on Tuesday evenings!!!Then, when I sat down at the dining hall, I happened to sit right across from a chaplain who told me that he had a soldier who is looking to find out what they need to do to become Catholic! He quickly thought of me and will send this soldier my way very soon!!! This in the span of about 30 minutes!!!
January 20, I have another person who is going to start RCIA! I need some prayer from you as he is upset at his "Catholic" girl friend who had an abortion a few days ago. I spoke with him today and he's not sure about his commitment to her. Her "Catholic" parents apparently encouraged her to have it done. I explained that anyone who participates in an abortion in any way, are automatically excommunicated from the Church. They need see a priest about how to get themselves reconciled to the Church. This was a serious sin that they need to resolve. He will join us tonight, pray for him as he is upset that his child was killed. The Battalion Commander put it out in their Command and Staff meeting last night to encourage soldiers to come to our Bible study on Tuesday evenings. We were happy to hear First Sergeant put it out for all the Platoon Sergeants to tell their soldiers. That is really good to see. We've been doing well for the people already coming!
January 20, Thanks for the continued prayers! God is doing great things with them!!! Tonight, 20 January 2007, we conducted the RCIA for the second week. All three of my soldiers went to include the soldier whose girlfriend committed the abortion. He was there!!! We were to meet at the Division Chapel which is about a 15 minute walk from where I'm working. We got there to find the chapel locked. We waited there for everyone to show up for class. I went to the MWR tent and was able to get us a room with a 53 inch TV, surround sound. We filled the room as I showed the Steve Ray DVD "Footprints of God" series beginning with "Jesus"! It was awesome as nobody wanted to leave even though we went 50 minutes past our normal time! I walked back to the TMC tonight filled with great joy even being in a place like this! Must be God!!! They even put up with more thoughts from the Catholic Defender!!! It has been a great night, one that I will remember. I think it's going to be like this until Easter Vigil!!!
January 23, Tonight I am looking forward to our bible study as we begin the study on Mary. Thanks to Steve and his many cast of characters who helped put it all together. I will use this series on Mary this coming Saturday evening for the RCIA. They loved the one on Jesus last week, what better follow up than Mary!!!! This certainly helps keep morale especially when the reality why we are here is constantly placed before you. Pray for the people of this country, for peace. My heart is sad over the victims of violence. Many of them very young.
January 26, Tonight has been a tough night in many ways. I was speaking with a friend of mine who had been wounded as his vehicle was blown up by an IED. He is going to be OK, but we were talking about a lot of things and he became open to the discussion on the Catholic faith. That was very good and he was very receptive. I've had two of my soldiers wounded one by an IED and another shot in the leg. I've had to send young men to take their place. I've been very much out there exposed as well. There is so much good we are doing and yet, the enemy is determined. I ask you to continue your prayers for our troops. Our soldiers are performing at a high rate. When we go out, the team I'm with prays Psalms 23. That is so cool. Thank you for all that you do for us in word and deed.
January 27, Beginning this morning, I was outside the wire on mission and didn't get back until after 18:00 hours. I was in full battle rattle when I got to my room and grabbed my computer and speaker system and made my way to the Division Chapel which was about a mile away. I had to go by foot. I got there to find Father was there with the RCIA class which was real glad I was able to get there. Even though I was 45 minutes late, everyone stayed the whole time to watch the DVD on Mary. That was so cool. A non-denominal preacher happened to be in another room became interested in the subject matter so after I dismissed the class we talked for another hour. It was a good night of RCIA action!!!
January 30, This morning as we were about to go on a mission, another soldier approached me wanting to talk about the Catholic Church. What a blessing as we begin another month of action here. I've been telling people who are in the RCIA that this Easter Vigil, they would be able to receive the Eucharist. To do that here in the land of Abraham, this is very cool!
February 2, I've been outside the wire doing several missions even serving as a Medic for patrols throughout the area. The past couple of days, another one of my medics was shot making it 3 that have been wounded in action the past couple of weeks. It's been tough. So I have been gone a lot. This past Sunday I didn't make it to Mass as we didn't get back until 20:00 that evening. It's been like that the last few days.I did speak to a Catholic today who told me that his wife was religious, but not Catholic. We talked for about an hour as I explained to him the importance of Mass. He thought he was doing good by going to church with his wife (a non-denominal). I woke him up in a serious way today. I received a couple of medics this week from home as their wives bore them children. They missed out on the first 90 some odd days. I'll try to send some pics when I figure out how!
February 2, I forgot a point of interest; after a Memorial Service for one of our soldiers in our Company, I participated in a bible study with a number of soldiers who came after the service. I was curious so I sat in on it. I was quickly invited in and the evening came and went. The other night, one of the officers who participated came over to my room and we ended up talking about the Catholic faith for 5 hours. That night I got about 4 hours of sleep but it was worth it. I think that he began to understand many of the points I was making. I'll be meeting him tonight later, maybe it will be fruitful! I'm going to be faithful!
February 3, Last night I participated in a bible study that took about two hours. It is a good opportunity as people are coming to me off line to ask me questions. That is really good. Tonight, we have RCIA and I'm covering St. Peter in the DVD series. That will be exciting!!!
February 3, There is always indirect fire that is hitting our area. We had a guy shot in the butt as he was sitting in the barber shop waiting to get a haircut. He's going to be OK, he is a Catholic who is faithful. These guardian angels that your sending, they are having a powerful affect as my soldiers at this point are going to survive. We have to hold on to tomorrow! Today is what we are sure of! I've been in a fun debate with one of my soldiers over "once saved, always saved". We maintain that a person can be "saved", yet fall from grace. That is an interesting doctrine because didn't Adam and Eve fall from grace? Were they not saved until the fall? The good news is that we can be restored!
February 11, Last night, I showed the DVD about St. Paul. Everyone is really enjoying the DVD's and people are getting with me to borrow them regularly. They are excellent. As I walked back to my PAD last night after we finished for the evening, I heard a firefight taking place not very far from where I was walking. I believe it was Iraqis fighting terrorists, perhaps a Father trying to defend his family. It lasted for a good 5 minutes. I don't know who was actually involved, but it is a sad state of affairs. For me, that is the reason we are here, so that this will not happen in the USA. That's the only thing that makes scene at this point.
February 11, Today has been a tough day. I had a soldier die in my hands as we tried to save him. His wounds were just to severe, I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet as we continued to work for him. It's a sad thing, may the perpetual light of the Lord shine on him for ever! His dog tags revealed he was Catholic and so I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him. I trust in the Lord's promise.
February 13, Today, after the noon day Mass, I met a soldier who came and it was very interesting. He told me that he had only been Baptized but has not been to Church in many years. After talking to him, he is going to become a full fledged Catholic! That is his desire! This began a week ago when he started having serious issues and he found going to Mass gave him peace!
February 14, I got into a discussion with a couple of troops who related to me they were raised Catholic. One of them told me that his father used to be a priest. I asked him if his father went to Mass and he answered no. I then asked him if he considered himself a Catholic. He called himself an agnostic. I began to challenge him this way: "Your Confirmation is your Pentecost, not your graduation! You are expected to take the baton and run with it. Instead of running the race, you have decided to sit down along the way at a side bar and read a newspaper. Your Father has done something similar. Jesus established the 'New and Everlasting Covenant' found in Matthew 26:26, 'For this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and all for the forgiveness of sins, do this in memory of me.' When you go to Communion, you renew the Covenant with the Lord. When you turn your back on Communion, you turn your back on the Lord. "I also told him when you go to Confession, "You sit on the Mercy Seat of God"! The Lord teaches that when you confess your sins, He takes those sins and throws them into the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more! Instead, you choose to wear and drag your chains around. You can be free of this by going to Confession and turning over your life to God!" The Trooper was very interested in what I was saying and will be getting with me in the future!!!
February 15, We had two priests celebrate Mass today at noon! I met one of them for the first time! We talked for a few minutes when he opened up that he had someone from his unit that was turning away from the faith. He felt like his hands were tied because he was a priest and couldn't reach him. This person kind of turned his back. Father was hoping that I might have an affect, so I hope to talk to him soon. People abandoning the Faith is a sad thing, that is why heaven rejoices with the return of a prodigal son.
February 18, This Saturday evening at RCIA, we covered the Nicean Creed. That went well as everyone gave good input and questions. Very positive! This morning at Mass, I met one soldier who couldn't make it to RCIA last night and so I arranged to meet him during lunch after Mass. While he waited for me to come to the mess hall, another one of his soldiers was standing there talking to him. I came on the scene and introduced myself. As we talked, I discovered he was a fallen Catholic! The light bulb came on and I ended up talking to a group during lunch. It was awesome as the guy decided he was going to get with me. One of his issues was Confession and I was able to explain it to him. He is going to go to Mass this Wed for Ash Wed!!! That is good news!! God is so Good!!!
This was simply a glimpse as there is much more. This was a 15 month deployment with many more opportunities to present the Catholic faith.