Military chaplains: a Presbyterian pastor patrols with his flock of soldiers in Iraq

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Vendors and shopkeepers are gearing up for business along a market street in the northeastern neighborhood of Adhamiya, when a platoon of American soldiers disgorges from Humvees. The soldiers fan out up and down the street. Even on a low-key patrol to make their presence known and gather intel, the soldiers have to stay on the qui vive. Eyes dart up to rooftops and down side alleys; while one soldier smiles and nods greetings to a vendor, another peers to the back of the store.

From a distance the soldiers are indistinguishable: domed helmets, dark glasses, and tight-fitting armored vests in camouflage grays and greens. But closer inspection reveals differences. From the back of one soldier, a radio antenna quivers: platoon leader. Across the chest of another, only gloved hands – no rifle, no side arm strapped to thigh: chaplain. In orbit around him, another soldier, rifle ready: chaplain's assistant and bodyguard. Should fighting break out, he'll shove his charge behind a wall, to the ground, under a vehicle.

Chaplain Ron Eastes is on this patrol with members of his 82nd Airborne Army unit not because he is helping with the platoon's mission, but because the platoon itself is his mission.

"I've heard it said that a shepherd needs to smell like his sheep," he explains, "and if I'm going to care for these guys, I need to be where they are."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesPresbyterian

Posted November 27, 2007 at 5:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Tom Roberts wrote:

The 82nd AB Inf is one of the few big organizations that resembles Heinlein’s “everybody jumps, everybody fights” dictum. It is not shocking to me at all that this chaplain questions the interdiction on not carrying firearms. Unit cohesion for paratroop units is of paramount importance, which makes personal rank and function a much lower priority. How he rigorously legitimizes this concept in theological terms is unfortunately not explained.

November 27, 11:46 pm | [comment link]
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