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July 4: An Army chaplain’s perspective

 
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1:00 P.M. EST July 2, 2010 | FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Iraq

United Methodist Chaplain (Capt.) John Fimple baptizes a soldier. UMNS photos courtesy of the Rev. John Fimple.
United Methodist Chaplain (Capt.) John Fimple baptizes a soldier.
UMNS photos courtesy of the Rev. John Fimple.

As I sat down to write this article on what the Fourth of July means to me, I was interrupted with the news that two soldiers in our brigade were killed by an improvised explosive device. At that moment, I got up from my computer to go and minister to our soldiers.

The core identity of an Army chaplain is to provide a ministry of presence. Perhaps there is no more important time for us to be present with soldiers than when they are grieving and trying to make sense of the deaths of their friends. While soldiers are trained to keep going in the fight and to be tough, they still need prayer and to hear the comforting Word of God that promises peace.

The news of the two young soldiers who died today in Iraq will most likely never be heard by the majority of Americans. However, it is the combined stories of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who, over the span of our nation’s history, have died or been wounded while defending our nation that ensures the freedoms and way of life that we cherish.

One thing I am reminded of this Fourth of July is that freedom truly is not free. The words of Jesus ring in my ears, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NIV).

‘Why am I here?’

One question I have asked myself many times on this deployment is, “Why am I here in Iraq, away from my family?” However, every time I asked myself that question, something would happen that confirmed to me that this is my calling, my place of ministry – a soldier would come by wanting some marital advice, or someone would stop me while I was walking, asking for prayer for a sick child, or I would get a care package or letter from an anonymous American who wanted to do their part to say thanks for my service.

United Methodist Chaplain (Capt.) John Fimple on a convoy mission with soldiers in Iraq.
United Methodist Chaplain (Capt.) John Fimple
on a convoy mission with soldiers in Iraq.

Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” In the bigger picture, on this Fourth of July, I recall many ways that God has confirmed to our military our place of calling here in Iraq. This past year we have built strong relationships with Iraqi leaders and communities and have witnessed the people of Iraq enjoying freedom.

That brings me to one last reminder of what the Fourth of July means to me: With freedom comes blessing. I like what Jesus promises to his disciples in John 15:16-17, “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” I think of the Fourth of July as a time when our nation expresses the blessings that come with freedom. That’s what backyard barbecues and watching fireworks light up the night sky and sitting around campfires are all about on this holiday.

Let me ask that you continue to remember our many soldiers around the world and their families who make so many sacrifices to ensure the safety and freedom of our nation. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

*Fimple is an ordained elder in the Arkansas Annual (regional) Conference serving with the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 296 Brigade Support Battalion.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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