Much has happened this summer that I have been unable to comment on due to operational security or personal reasons. June 28th marked the blackest day in my career as a chaplain thus far. You may remember that was the day a helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan killing 16. Seven of those were my soldiers. The fact is that often a chaplain is seen as irrelevant or unnecessary until a tragedy occurs, and then he becomes the most desired individual to have around. In the early days of July 2005 I found myself speaking to young widows, grieving parents, and children with no fathers. I chose not to write about this event as it unfolded out of deference to the families of the grieving, and for that same reason I will not go into great detail here. However, sufficient time having passed, I think, I wanted to get some things recorded for posterity, if you will.
June 29th was spent trying to keep the media at bay so that we would have time to inform the families properly about what had happened to their loved ones. We were not entirely successful as the news runs unchecked through events of the day while we were tied to a series of events that, of necessity, had to be conducted in order. So it was that the race to honor our fallen by treating their families with the respect they are due was hastened by a need to do things correctly and in order.
On the one hand I pray it is the last time I will ever have to do something like that. On the other hand, it was a privilege to be able to spend time crying and grieving with family members of all religious persuasions and praying that the peace of God would infuse their lives during that trying time (which continues to this day).
We are at war and people die. It is a sad reality. But I can say without hesitation that as the details of the actions of those lost that day come to my attention, I clearly understand that they willingly gave everything so that someday others would not have to do the same.
They lived to fight, and they fought to win.