(A relative of mine presented this devotional)
Saturday Brown Bag Lunch
April 11, 2009
Iraq is about the size of Texas, and I say this because I understand that while I was gone my brother (removed) came home for a little while and talked about HIS experiences in Iraq. While some of the things I say may sound similar, some will sound different. During my tour of duty I was a Motor Transportation Vehicle Operator for (removed) stationed in Al Anbar province. That's a real fancy way of saying: I was a truck driver in western Iraq. But that sure doesn't sound as cool.
I got to see a lot of western Iraq while driving on Convoys for hours and hours at a time. At one point I was living in SW Iraq near the Saudi Arabian border, and the next month I was living in NW Iraq near the Syrian Border.
The wide swath of western Iraq that I saw, looked exactly like what you see out your front porch... Really flat, Really brown, Really desolate.
(Removed) spends his time in eastern Iraq, and like I said: Iraq is about the size of Texas and just as diversified. In an email he sent to the family he talked about beautiful mountains, rivers, and good hiking ground. Well I'm looking out of 4 inches of bulletproof glass thinking, "What on Earth is he talking about?!!"
We had a Navy chaplain with us, and I really liked him. One convoy we went on he had to ride in the back of the truck and when he got out at the end all covered with dirt, I stopped him and said "Hey Chap, this sure has come a long way from being the Promised Land." He then explained how the Promised Land wasn't in this exact spot of this glorious desert.
For a couple of months I was living in the middle of nowhere. Lots of times people throw that saying around, but when I SAY the middle of nowhere, I mean it in the purest way. While I was living out there we would go out on convoys every other day, and the rest of the time we were just trying to stay out of the sand. This made for lots of down time.
We would sit in the trucks and play cards, try and learn Spanish (which sure didn't work for me), and try and decipher the Bible. I say try and decipher the Bible because between me, Garcia, Guzman, and Padilla, we were just a bunch of young dumb truck drivers. We tried to dabble in the Old Testament but very quickly we would find ourselves in the Gospels.
And this is what I want to talk about today or bring to you: how religion affected me over there. We were half way across the world away from our families for a long time and during holidays. Over there all we had was God and each other. Religion has a way of having people come together. After these discussions with my fellow Marines, I'd always feel bonded together a little more.
People often ask me. Were you scared? YOU BET I WAS! I was scared when I shouldn't have been. And I wasn't scared when I probably should have been. Somebody somewhere once pointed out Pslam 91 to me and I held on to that chapter throughout the deployment.
I had Psalm 91 written on some of my gear and many guys would ask what Psalm 91 said. I'd say, go read it, but I'd also tell them that to me it meant, do not worry because God will protect you. Religion can bring people, even Marines, close together. Some of the biggest, baddest, toughest, Marines I know would walk up to me and say, "You know my favorite part of Psalm 91 is this verse or that line." --Marines that I didn't know well, but after just that little exchange about Psalms we would be brought closer. God really helped us out, because all we had was Him and each other. And religion gives you that warm feeling of security and that was a feeling that didn't come up very often.
There were many times I would be in the truck driving for hours and hours about to fall asleep, and I'd say a prayer: God it doesn't matter how many more energy drinks or sugar pills I take; I'm about to fall asleep, flip this big truck and kill everybody in it. Please just keep my eyes open for a couple more hours. And He always did.
Before every convoy we had what is called a convoy brief. This brief would tell us where we were going, how we were getting there, how fast we'd be going--things like that. Then we would jump in our trucks, slap a round into our rifles and hit the road.
But at the end of every convoy brief, the Navy Chaplain would lead us all in a prayer. Some of the prayers were motivating, some were a little sad. The prayers would go something like: "God, we're here in Al Taqadum Iraq. Be with every Marine and Sailor and truck as we go across the Al Anbar province to our objectives." And then at the very end he would always say the same thing every single time, and I liked it.
He'd end it with: "May his spirit guide us, presence protect us, and strength uphold us. Amen." That was motivating for me. Sometimes my buddy Guzman and I would even give the fist pump when he'd say those last three things. I enjoyed it so much that everyone in my platoon grew to enjoy it as much as I did.
But in the end I'd just like to say thanks for all the packages sent, and the prayers said for me while I was over there. There were some really tough times to get through over there, and God played a major role in making all the guys in my platoon feel like brothers, and some sort of family out there, and some sense of security.
And the next time you get scared. Think of Psalm 91.
Heavenly Father we stand here today in (Removed) TX asking that you be with every man, woman and car here as we all drive across (Removed) County to our appointed places of duty. Thank you for dying, and rising that we might live. May His spirit guide us, presence protect us, and strength uphold us. Amen.