I’m back at the Chaplains’ School for the first time in seven years. One of my classmates for this course asked me today if I was a runner. He said that I looked like someone who passed him on a 5-K in Baghdad. We were stationed on the same base at the same time, so I guess it was me. In honor of those memories, I posted a photo of the 378th Baghdad Army Ten-Miler group. This was before the race, I’m not looking so good in the after-race picture.
Two stories in today’s news caught my attention. First, Britain’s The Independent reports on history’s most famous failed technology predictions. These include a claim from 1977 that no one will need a computer in their home.
The second story, in the Washington Post, is a harrowing account of an assault conducted by U. S. Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos on an insurgent stronghold in Afghanistan. Ten of those soldiers will receive the Silver Star today.
It’s finally over. After a year, I am back at home with Sheri and Rachael. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers over the past year. Please continue to pray for:
The safety of the many soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and civilians who remain in harm’s way
The psychological health of those who have returned
The families who heroically endure long separations
The thousands of families who mourn the loss of a loved one who died in combat
The people of Iraq, who deserve lives of prosperity and peace.
It is time for the enthusiastic, yet reluctant, soldier to become simply an enthusiastic philosophy professor. I have enjoyed writing the blog, though, and may continue to post about more trivial matters: philosophy, religion, and politics. So, check back here occasionally. Before I put my year of service to rest, I’ll post some pictures. My connection speed in Baghdad made it too difficult to do so from there. Thanks again, and continue to pray for peace.
We have made it back to the place where all of our training began – Ft. Dix, New Jersey. After a few days in Kuwait, we began the long process of clearing customs and awaiting transportation. We landed at Maguire Air Force Base on Tuesday. We had to walk across a lawn to get on a bus that was waiting to take us to Ft. Dix. It was wonderful to smell grass once again. The weather is cool, the trees are beautiful, and all is well. I should return to Oklahoma on Tuesday.
It is a bittersweet time. I can’t wait to see my family and friends again, but I’m also preparing to say goodbye to some people with whom I have shared some intense experiences. I have already said goodbye to some, for several elected to stay in Iraq for a time. May God continue to watch over them.
This should be my last post from Iraq. Soon, we will move out of our trailers and into some tents, awaiting our flight to Kuwait. As I prepared this morning’s sermon, it struck me that most of the Old Testament was written with this place as a context. I won’t give you the whole sermon, but here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned.
First, the practical lessons: 1) You can lose your tolerance for spicy food. 2) They close the latrines for 45 minutes each morning for cleaning. 3) Don’t sit in the right rear seat of a UH-60 helicopter. It’s not called the “cyclone seat” for nothing. 4) Don’t leave the bunker until the “all-clear” signal sounds, even if the rounds have stopped coming in. The first and second lessons are painful ones to learn on the same day. The fourth lesson was one of the most frightening days of my life.
Now, the other lessons: 1) Find someone that you can be honest with about grief and anger. 2) Take God’s call to be holy seriously. 3) Never forget the importance of true community. 4) Remember that God’s reasons for your being in a place may not be same as your reasons for being there. Try to see things from the perspective of the eternal. 5) Remember that God chose you, and maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt.
In Jeremiah 29:4-7, the prophet gives some advice to those living in exile. One thing he says is to pray for the welfare of the city where he has sent them into exile, for “…in its welfare, you will find your welfare.” Pray for the people of Iraq. It matters little now what one thought about the justification of the war. One thing that we are truly discovering is that our welfare now lies hand in hand with their own.
Thank you for your prayers over the past year. May God bless your faithfulness, and may you continue to pray for peace.
We have made it to our last full week in Iraq. I was never very interested in prophecy about the future, but lately I have been thinking a lot about eschatology, or the study of last things. Today, I thought about the last time I will change the sheets on the bed here, or the last time I do a PT run down “Sniper Alley.” I wonder if today is the last time that the rockets come in, but given the way things are in Basra right now, I somehow doubt it. I did start working on my last sermon today, titled “Lessons from my Babylonian Exile.” When I figure out what those lessons are, I’ll let you know.
It was a beautiful early spring day in Baghdad today. The high was only 99. Fortunately, we’ll be long gone before it gets in the 120’s. On a recent trip, I made it within two miles of the ruins of ancient Babylon. Unfortunately, it was too dangerous to visit the ruins. Tradition maintains that the house that Abraham lived in before he left on his journey of faith is at Tallil, which is in southeastern Iraq. One of the sergeants and I are trying to concoct a justification for a trip down there. It’s unlikely to happen, though.