Commentary: Remember to pray for troop safety this Thanksgiving
11/14/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
A head and shoulders photo of Connie D. Rouse is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.htm.
A UMNS Commentary
By Connie D. Rouse*
Artillery soldiers gather for worship near the Baghdad airport. UMNS
photo courtesy Chaplain Mitchell Lewis, Photo number 03-479, Accompanies
No Long Caption Available for this Story
Division Artillery soldiers' choir located near the Baghdad airport
sings during a Palm Sunday worship service. UMNS photo courtesy Chaplain
Mitchell Lewis, Photo number 03-473, Accompanies UMNS #557, 11/14/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
A few months ago, I sat in a crowded room with the
families of marine personnel who had been, or were going to be, deployed
in Iraq. My husband, a naval reserve chaplain, was holding a briefing
for the families. His job, along with another officer, was to answer
questions regarding the condition of servicemen and women, and to give
assurance of available services to them during the absence of their
Shortly into the briefing, families began stating
their concerns. One grandmother was concerned that her grandson would
not get his birthday gift by the actual date. Another mother and father
complained that their son's morale was down because he was still at Camp
Lejeune, N.C., and not fighting in Iraq. The mother stated that since
her son was not allowed to have a car, he was bored and thought that the
base should supply shuttle services to the mall. One mother questioned
the exact location of her son because he had not written back. She had
his address, listing only his company. "Where is he?" she asked.
people were extremely irritated and I guess, on a normal day, their
concerns would have been valid. But not that day! On that day, we were
in a war, and to me, their concerns seemed so trivial!
next to me was a Vietnam veteran, a former officer in a secret forces
regiment, whose daughter was presently deployed in Iraq. He remarked, "I
know that the chaplain and officer standing there have a job to be nice
to the families, but these people are being unrealistic in their
demands. We can't know everything. This is war! People are going to die
and they don't have a clue!"
He wasn't belittling the families,
for he and his wife were one of those families. Yet, sitting there with
his prosthesis attached at the hip, he knew the cost of war. Looking at
the leg he lost in battle, he said calmly, "We just need to pray."
The officers were so patient and kind to the families. However, the
kinder they were, the more demanding the families became. They were
hurting and afraid, and had, somehow, obliterated from their minds the
horrific battle that was waging as we spoke.
I had not. I
panicked every time my husband got a call from his unit. He was on alert
and I thought that he might be called up for active duty. Even then, as
he stood before us in his camouflage uniform, I could smell the scent
of death. The tight security and barbed wire that now barricaded the
usually relaxed military facility where we met gave a cruel hint of the
severity of this crisis. The cold, harsh images constantly bombarding
the screen on CNN made the brutality of war an apparent reality to me.
could not feel, as some did, that "gung ho" feeling of "let's go over
there and teach them a lesson." I was still praying desperately for
God's intervention to totally end the war. I wanted my husband, and
every other soldier, here and alive.
As my eyes roamed the
room, I looked into the saddened faces of the children. The adults, so
busy complaining, did not notice the fear in their children's eyes.
Birthday gifts and low morale meant nothing. They wanted and needed
hope, hope of one day seeing and holding their parents once again.
even though I was unfamiliar with protocol and felt sure that the
chaplain's wife should probably not speak, I decided to request
permission anyway. It was granted.
After telling the families
how much I empathized with them, and thanking them for their loved ones
who were placing their lives on the line for my protection and freedom, I
shared personal thoughts.
I told the grandmother that it would
be a blessing if her son actually received his gift an entire year late
because that meant that he was still alive a year later and by then, the
war might be over. I told the concerned parents that their son might be
better off bored at the base than fighting on some mine field in Iraq.
Then, I reminded the other mother that her son had gone off to war, not
I asked the Vietnam veteran to share his story.
Afterwards, I told them that we needed to pray that God would end this
war swiftly and bring our troops home safely. The war is formally over,
but there are still service men and women deployed abroad in dangerous
So, this Thanksgiving, as we sit at our tables, enjoying
our freedoms, feasting on our turkeys and hams, complaining about
President Bush and whether or not the war was justified, or the
Democratic debates, or whether or not we'll have enough money to
sinfully "buy Christmas" for our children, remember to pray for the
soldiers who are still in some faraway land trying to establish peace.
us pray that we may remember the hundreds of men and women who died
this year in battle. Pray for the children who will never get the
opportunity to grow up in the loving arms of the parents who gave their
lives so that we might have that freedom to sit at the table this
Thanksgiving and complain.
If we continually pray, God will "hear our prayer and pay attention."
Let us come into His courts with thanksgiving and praise, for regardless of our situations, we are blessed.
"Thanks be to God." # # #
is a free-lance writer, columnist for the South Carolina United
Methodist Advocate and member of Disciples United Methodist Church in
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