Thursday, December 09, 2004

On A Dime

It is becoming clearer every day that events here can turn on a dime.

One moment everything is quiet and still, the next there is a huge burst of M-2 (.50 cal) gun fire and several small explosions and then, just as suddenly, it's quiet again. One minute you are chilled by the fact that someone may be dying right then, the next moment you are chilled by the cold desert nights. Not that I'm afraid of anything happening to me personally. I really don't fear for my safety. But once in a while the entire situation makes me stop and realize that every thing here is tenuous at best.

Tonight presented one such moment. It's quite cold outside and there is a mission planned for later in the evening. There is a nearly imperceptible edge to the tone of peoples voices and their overall attitudes. No one is nervous, per se, at least not any more than they would be preparing for any other mission. A better word would be focused. Everyone is focused on what part they play in tonight's mission. It's like this every time our guys are preparing to go out. But tonight, it would turn out, is a bit different. Tonight, for some, History and Fate would conspire to change the future.

On any airfield you have what's called a FARP (Forward Area refueling Point). Aircraft of all sorts will move to this location at the beginning of every mission to top off and then again at the end of the mission to refuel. This is tricky business in the day time and even more so at night. Tonight, one of the units stationed here had a UH-60 Blackhawk with 6 or 7 personnel aboard. It made it's way to the FARP and set down to refuel. As this was going on, an AH-64 Apache approached under night vision, and not seeing the Blackhawk, pretty much landed on top of it. I can only imagine what the next half second must have been like in the middle of that mess. By the time we knew what was going on all that could be seen from our position was a big fire down by the FARP. Remember, there is a lot of jet fuel at the FARP so naturally we all kind of held our breath a bit. My first question dragged slowly out of my mouth. I was afraid of the answer. "Is it ours?" "No" someone nearby, standing in the darkness answered. My heart leapt back to life as I slowly exhaled. The calm yet jagged preparations of the evening were turned into a few tense moments for our battalion as we stood on the roof of our TOC (Tactical Operations Center) and watched the fire rage.

I think you'd have to be made of stone not to look at a scene like that and ponder your own mortality. None of us here fear death neither do I invite it. Certainly we court it on a regular basis, but were it to become our focus we would surely become less than effective. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but think about all those men that at that moment were standing on the edge of eternity, wondering in a split second if they would see tomorrow. I could hear the prayers of their families back home. I could see Christmas gifts that are still in the mail, headed for a recipient who may not be here to receive them. I could see a commander struggling over what words would be appropriate for a letter of condolence or sympathy.

Yet where History and Fate conspired, God intervened. All of the personnel in the Blackhawk escaped without injury. No one on the ground was injured. Only the Apache pilot and crew lost their lives. God again proved that despite the fear and confusion of a moment, He is still in control. His mercy is an unfathomable thing.

It is becoming clearer every day that events here can turn on a dime.


Papa Ray said...

There is a word I use for events like that, I call it a miracle.

Papa Ray

carol said...

I have a young friend in Iraq

carol said...

I have a young friend in Iraq named Adam. He is a Christian. I hope his chaplain is as empathetic and caring as Brad Lewis. All of the young men and women serving there need such support. i pray that no one whom God calls to serve in this way will refuse to go. He or she will miss a great opportunity to make a difference in many lives.

Anonymous said...

Chaplain Lewis, I heard Hugh Hewitt read your blog last night as I drove from my home in Denver to my parents' home in Nebraska. It was hard to imagine that while I was having a nice drive through the countryside, you were facing this hell on earth. It's also hard to feel like celebrating now, know that so many families will be having a very difficult Christmas season, having lost a loved one.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service and your dedication to bringing Christ to the soldiers in that very inhospitable territory. Please know that people over here are praying for you and your mission. Please take care and don't give up. Godspeed to you and the other soldier.

Marvin Floyd
Centennial, CO

Anonymous said...

The horrors of this war make even the steeled minds ache with such awful pain for our men and women in harms way.
I cannot adequately describe the pride and wonderment I (WE)feel for our brave soldiers who are putting it all on the line for all Americans. I speak for all of Colorado in thanking our uniformed men and women for their service and their sacrifice for our country. Stay as safe as you can and kill as many of those souless bastards as fast as you can as they are true to their name ......."terrorists".


Anonymous said...

Ithank God for you and all our men and women serving our country in the military.Also for their families.My nephew is in Iraq.Iam thankful he is a christian.Knowing God is in control of our lives is great comfort.
We know if we live or die it is His will and we will be with Him for eternity.
Having our prayers answered increases our faith.
God be with you and your family.

Army Chaplain said...

Chaplain Lewis
You write so clearly - it is like a razor blade ripping through the layers of media obfuscation, culture differences, space and distance, and lack of awareness for those of us who have not yet been there. There are many of us who are praying for you specifically TODAY. What you are doing is rippling through time and eternity. Maury

Anonymous said...

Dear Chaplain Lewis:

I read about the events in Mosul, and I read your weblog. Thank you sir, for your devotion to God, to the USA, and to the troops that you minister to. Thank you for your service and for the real benefits and protection you are bringing to our troops through your prayers. God does hear and answer prayers, and I will continue to pray for a hedge of protection to be put around all of our troops and personnel engaged in this mighty work in Iraq. Truly, God (Immanuel) is with us, and God saves. I hope I can encourage you today by pointing you to the 29th chapter of Jeremiah (I paraphrase) that God has plans for hope, and plans for a future for us. God bless you, and all of our troops. I thank you as an American citizen for what you are doing; for being there as a man of God to protect our troops.


Robert S. Meybohm
Newport Beach, CA USA