Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Catholic Defender : Open to God's Mission

I've had some stressful assignments in my time, many deployments, but few like Korea. I was stationed at Camp Hovey about 12 miles from the DNZ, close to the 38th Parallel.

I was assigned with an artillery unit. I quickly became active in fixing several problems I inherited. The Combat Life Saver program was in poor shape.

I reorganized the program setting up a class of 50 Soldiers beginning a successful deployment. At the graduation of that class the Battalion Commander participated in the ceremony giving an Army Achievement Medal to the Soldier with the highest scores on their practical exercises and written exams.

I also had to redo and reorder all the Combat Life Saver bags as they were not well maintained or stocked. There was no accountability. In Korea, we were in the field constantly. There were civilians camping out there with us which was very new to me.

I think they were sometimes more informed of our plans than allot of us. We were able to buy food and have nice pictures made. That was really a change from anything I had seen before. I became very involved with the Catholic Community at Camp Hovey serving as our Battalion Lay Eucharistic Minister when in the field, serving at Mass as an Altar server every Mass when at the Camp.

What an honor this was for me. I was involved with Father helping him organize an RCIA program where we would meet on Tuesday evenings. This was great support for me. I was always witnessing for the faith when the opportunity arose!

After 3 months we received a new Chaplain transfer into our unit. He became very important to me. We would support each other a great deal. He was an Episcopalian and I would have fun with him. I would challenge him asking him why he stayed in a "halfway house". Why did he prefer being a "liberal" Catholic?

We would have many respectful discussions in the field as well as back at Camp Hovey. As the Battalion LEM, I would go with the Chaplain to the field when ever there was a service in the field. I was commissioned to offer the Eucharist to the Catholic Soldiers in the field in the absence of a priest. During Holy Communion you could really feel the division between the Catholics and Protestants as we went our separate ways.

One night, as we were conducting training, as we were crossing a bridge, one of our APC's (Track 113's) went off the bridge and plunged into the river. There were five casualties that were riding in the back of the track. It was a sad time and I obtained permission to advertise a Rosary service for those who died in conjunction with the military service.

I organized the Rosary service picking out music, scripture, and the mysteries. I invited the Chaplain if he would say a few words at this service. He did and the Soldiers and their families were lifted up in prayer. This service would be a life changing experience for the Chaplain!

About six months after I returned home (back in the USA), I received a call from my old Battalion Chaplain and he called me to thank me personally for leading him to Mary. As a Protestant, he never knew Mary.

Later that year (June 2,000) he informed me that his wife and family were received into the Catholic Faith through RCIA. He continued serving as a Military Protestant Chaplain until his commitment was fulfilled and he was finally received into the Catholic Faith in 2003.

He went on to become a permanent Deacon where he worked through his Bishop going to Rome finally to receive his dispensation from the Pope and is now an ordained Catholic Priest. While I was deployed to Iraq between 06 and 08, I was on the computer when his address come up as if he was on line.

I recognized him so I called to see how he was doing these days. I was informed this was his Son, not his Father. I apologized to him and introduced myself, when he realized who I was, he became very appreciative towards me.

He thanked me for the witness I gave his Father and informing me the result of his Family. He and his wife and family converted to the Catholic Faith, his siblings and their families as well. His Aunts and Uncles and their Families Converted as well.

This was very humbling to me, I asked him what it was that he learned that changed his mind to accept the Catholic Faith. He paused for a moment, then he said, "When Jesus told Simon, Son of Bar-Jona, you are Kepa (Kephas), and upon this Kepa (Kephas), I will build my Church. Everything else fell into place after that".

No matter how difficult times might be God can still work where you are at. In every assignment I've been in, I have tried to make the best of it. God will open doors for you if He has a mission for you. Like the Virgin Mary, through faith in Him, we can say yes.
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