Saturday, December 25, 2004

Front Line Family

Compared to recent days, today was fairly uneventful. A steady, cold drizzle ensured that this was quite possibly the muddiest and least comfortable Christmas I've ever experienced. For all appearances, it was not very noteworthy. But appearances can be deceiving.

From Bastogne to Baghdad, Christmas and war have always seemed to travel hand in hand. Soldiers from most generations have endured Christmas in the face of battle. And in the past 36 hours I have learned two very important lessons about Christmas, the nature of war, and the spirit of the American Warrior.

Lesson Number One ... war is unrelenting. Despite the fact that today is a national holiday and a time normally spent relaxing, opening presents, and watching or playing football, the fighting didn't stop. Throughout the day the drone of war could be heard in just about every direction. Whether it was an aircraft of some sort zipping overhead, the rapid ping of nearby gunfire, or the thump of a distant explosion, it didn't stop. War continues at a breakneck pace. Even in moments of relative silence it hung in the air. There is no escaping the fact that we are in harms way. Some more than others.

Lesson Number Two ... Christmas is unrelenting. Last night we held a Christmas Eve service in celebration of the birth of Jesus. In that service, I came to realize that the American soldier is indeed a unique and awesome individual. Despite the roar of mortars in the background, smiling faces sang, Silent Night. Despite the complete lack of greenery for miles, men of all ranks shook hands and sang, Deck the Halls. And despite being away from friends and family, our battle-hardened brothers joyfully sang, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Men who look like they'd just as soon break you in half as speak to you, smiled at one another and hugged one another as wishes of "Merry Christmas" echoed throughout our little chapel. After the service we gathered in a small trailer converted into something of a theatre to watch a Christmas movie or two and laugh together. Believe it or not, gifts were exchanged via Secret Santa's and we laughed as men hollered, "Thanks, it's just what I always wanted!" upon unwrapping a bar of deodorant, or a ball cap, or whatever else could be found at the Post Exchange. Today has been no different. With each soldier I passed a hand was quickly extended in greeting as "Merry Christmas" hit me like a freight train. I think I've been patted on the back one million times today.

It would be easy for today, Christmas, and the circumstances we find ourselves in to be an excuse to foster self-pity or to retreat into a shell of depression. However, our soldiers don't work that way. I am at a loss to express, today, my pride at being an American and my love for my brothers-at-arms. Because while I do not have my wife and children with me, I am nevertheless with family.

Merry Christmas

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

My Dear Friend !!!
First, I'd like to apologize for my english, 'cause I've never went to school to learn this linguage.
I just want to thank you so very much for your work, and for everything that you've being doing for our men and women in the military!!! Like everybody else, I brokedown with Laura listenig to your tuesday post. I live in USA by myself and have family and friends in Brazil. I miss them very much, but I'm grateful, because I know they are there waiting for me.
I just want you to know that you are in my prayers and in my heart. Merry Christmas!!!
Sincerely, Lu Ribeiro - Boston - USA

Sean from DocintheBox said...

Merry Christmas Brad, I hope the best for you, your family and the brothers that you pray over. Stay safe.

Fr. Wes said...

Dear Brad,

I am a fellow chaplain, surrently serving in the Air National Guard. We haven't been called up yet but we are on the AEF cycle and I'm sure its just a matter of time, but I want you to know we are praying for you. I'm glad Christmas was wonderful, though a bit rustic. In my flying days I think I spent almost every Christmas at the Alert Facility but at least we had snow instead of mud! :) Thank you for the pastoral care you have given to fellow chaplains in addition to the troops. Keep strong.

Anonymous said...

May God Bless you and and all our brave soldiers...

Bob Reece said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family, Chaplain Lewis,and God Bless.

Andres Bocanegra said...

Sir your blog I found after hearing it on a radio talk show. The post that was read was "MASCAL" and let me say it touched me and I felt as though I was there. May I say that I wish you and your family and the soldiers in Iraq a Merry Christmas a Happy New Year. I and my friends and family are praying for you and thinking of you men and women everyday. God Bless.

carol harvey said...

Dear Sir:

I will tell you the truth. I have great difficulty with this war and the people who started it. I especially question the reasons they started it.

Your great spirit and great heart touches me deeply. A human being like yourself ennobles the entire effort to a transcendent level far beyond the intended original purpose.

I pray for you and the people to whom you minister. I pray for the terribly threatened Other ones who need love and hope, as well.

Thank you so much for your lovely evocative writing. You bring it all very much alive for those of us (too) safe and far away. Please continue. We need to know and face the reality of this.

Have the safest and best of holidays.

Brenda said...

Chaplain, I came across you site when reading MASCAL, and so I looked you up today. My little 3 yr old greatniece came in and looked at the screen and said "there's Daddy". She of course saw your background of soldier's. We are very glad Daddy is home and here with us today. Last year he was where you are and eating in Mosul. Please remeber that what you do is important not only for our troops, but also for us, those who wait at home while our hearts and hope fight a world away. I know that a Chaplain prayed with my little brother when he was injured, before he was airlifted out. I know a Chaplain was there for my nephew when he was injured and needed support.
Merry Christmas to you and know that you are indeed one of God's great gifts to all of us. Thank You.

AFSister said...

Merry Christmas, Chaplain!
Although you aren't with your real family, it is obvious you have a close-knit group of people around you in Mosul. Thank you for providing comfort and worship to our soldiers! May God bless you and keep you safe, Sir.

Janie said...

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for your family sharing you.

MyAdidas said...

Dear Chaplain~
I am Active Duty Air Force, but am not deployed. I am stationed 'safely' in Stuttgart, Germany, doing a job that doesn't require fear. My little brother, however, is in Iraq with the Big Red One, stationed at FOB Paliwoda. I miss him.
I just wanted to tell you, Sir, that I have been blessed. Though I am not a religious person, I am spiritual. Yesterday I spent, also, with people of whom I am not related, but we are FAMILY.

I feel VERY proud that you and I are family, together. Thank you for being the Dad and the Brother and the Favorite Uncle. I love my Air Force Family and my Army Brotherhood.

I came across your site through other supporters of military blogs. I will be a frequent reader. My little bro is TheQuestingCat.com. He's worth a gander, if I do say so myself.

You are in my thoughts. I really appreciate the job you do, every day. I know it cannot be easy.

Thank you...

Steve said...

I just came across your blog from Blogs of War, and I've added it to my site at www.iraqfiles.com . We offer news about the reconstruction and links to milblogs, Iraqi blogs and support organizations. I hope you'll take a look.

Thanks again for your posts, and stay safe.

Steve

slkiel@aol.com
iraqfiles.com
stevenkiel.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Dear Chaplain-
Bless you for sharing the true 'reason for the season'. Best wishes to you for all you do.
Angie
http://home.earthlink.net/~essentiallyhappy/index.html

WindyCityLefty said...

I'm so glad that the troops have someone like you to help them get through, especially after the attack last week. Almost everyone knows someone in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. Your MASCAL account moved me to tears.

Take care of yourself, stay safe and know that all of us look forward to a day when you can come home.

F.S. said...

Semper Fi, you are part of the Hand of God. Justice is being served thru you and by our military. Sovereign is the Lord our God. You have this great privilege to be apart of His plan. As we all are. I pray for you and all of our troops to be successful in our endeavors. Don't be disheartened by those whom would stand by and watch while those we defend fall. Take strength in their perceptive weakness of view and understanding. Know that this must truly be part of his plan. It is like turning on a light and seeing the condition of the world and it inhabitants as they are. Merry Christmas soldier and remember,

God is with you and your family.

The Queen of Poop said...

Sir,
I was directed to your site by a fellow member of Books for Soldiers. Your words are very inspiring. They have helped me deal with my son serving in Iraq.

Thank you for providing spiritual guidance.

Mrs. J.

TulsaVet said...

Chaplain, I am especially thankful for you and the work that you are doing in Iraq. I understand the importance of ministering to the spiritual needs of our soldiers. I believe in the mission and I believe in the capabilities of the soldiers. We will continue to pray for you and for those in harm's way. A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

Huntress said...

I recently became friends with a Chaplain who served in Iraq and returned a short while ago to Ft Hood.Its a privilege to know him.

I send care packages and letters to men deployed in Iraq, thru the many "adopt a soldier" programs available. I do it not because its a "left" thing or "right" thing...but because its THE right thing to do. I received an email at 3:30 amEST on Dec 21 - one of the soldiers I "adopted" thanked me for my care package, wished me Merry Christmas, and said "Im off to grab lunch, before I head out on duty patrol" ....He was based at Camp Mazer.
Thankfully he is alright. Christmas Miracles do happen!

The news doesn’t report all the great work you do for the people of Iraq and all the positive accomplishments achieved. You confront the evil that wants to thwart and usurp peace stability and democracy in Iraq in many ways and you are planting the seeds of democracy by restoring buildings, rebuilding and reopening schools, training and building the Iraqi police force, and by confronting the insurgents in battle when necessary.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the recognition that there is something more important that fear. You have recognized that, and it’s made me appreciate, respect, and admire the calling you have chosen to accept. And you accept it with Honor, Perseverance, Spirit and Heart.

Victoria said...

Thank you.

Cinomed Tweak said...

Words cannot convey the emotions I have when I read your writing.

On Christmas day my wife was "too ill" to go to the family's for gift exchanging.

We have such luxury because men like yourself and those you counsel stand guard against the evil in the world.

Merry Christmas, for the bottom of my heart and with every fiber of my being.

May God watch over, protect, comfort, and give strength to you and those who make such sacrifice.

George Pence said...

I just read your account of the bombing of the American Mess... this is most powerful report of that terrible event that I'm likely to read. You have a marvelous way of bringing this event home to those of us who can't be there... and likely would never choose to be there given the terrible risks involved. God bless you and the wonderful men with whom you serve.

George Pence
http://notminealone.blogspot.com

Sanjay said...

Sir,

You have a great gift with words and do bring home the war pictures so vividly to those of us here in the USA. Quite frankly after reading some of your posts, I am overcome by a sense of self-loathing. Here we are tucked away in the comfort of our homes while scores of fine U.S men and women are dying for other people who by their passive impotence seem ungrateful for the sacrifices of our troops.

In a war against good and evil, God keeps a watch on those who are on the side of good, although events in Mosul may suggest otherwise.

God bless you all and keep you safe from Lucifer’s aids.

Sanjay
Sacramento, CA