In 2007 I ended a fourteen year break in military service by joining the Army Reserves. I specifically came back in to be a chaplain assistant. I know I was older and not in as good of shape as I was when I got out the first time, but I would fix that, at least the not being in shape part. And since I never mastered acting my age anyway, I always feel younger than I really am, so I got that covered, too.
The first unit I was put in when I came back was the 787th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Dothan, AL. The unit was deployed when I got there so it was a skeleton crew, per se. They didn’t have a chaplain when I got there. But a few months later I met Chaplain “Mac” when he got assigned there. We worked together for a while before I was cross-leveled to another unit for deployment to Iraq. A year later I came back and we worked together until some time in 2010 when it was time for me to move on. I needed a unit closer to home and also one that I could advance in rank.
As I left, CH Mac expressed his gratefulness to me for my service while there, shook my hand, and told me that if he ever deploys he was going to call me to go with him. CH Mac and I had a great working relationship and got along very well. But I always thought the words he spoke to me about calling me back if he deployed were just something nice you say to someone when you part ways. Never did I think he’d really call me. In 2012 he called me for a deployment for the following year.
In a recent conversation we had on one of the missions we’ve gone on, we talked about that. I told him I remember what he said but that I never thought it would happen. There were plenty chaplain assistants available and I am far from being the best. So I asked him why he called me. His response was immediate, almost like he was expecting the question. He said, “I wanted someone who was willing to die with me if necessary.” He wanted me because of my loyalty. I’ve always prided myself on being loyal.
This made me think of another story of loyalty and bravery. Found in 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan and his armor bearer exemplify the loyalty/bravery relationship. I will paraphrase the story starting from verse 6. Jonathan told his armor bearer to go with him to the camp of the enemy because maybe the Lord would work for them. Maybe? Read the story, Jonathan wasn’t sure what the outcome would be, only that he knew God was with him. The young man who bore Jonathan’s armor responded, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”
Reading on a little further in the story we find that Jonathan received the sign he was looking for that would ensure the Lord had delivered the enemy into his hands. And we also see that if it had been the other sign, the victory was not promised, yet Jonathan and his armor bearer would have stayed and fought in defeat anyway. To receive the victory, they had to completely expose themselves to the enemy, climbing the mountain on hands and knees. I wonder what the armor bearer was thinking. He was tagging along on a mission of 2 against an entire encampment. But he stayed loyal to Jonathan.
A few months ago at Ft Hood, I shared with CH Mac the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer in reference to how I view our relationship on this deployment. I am the armor bearer and I challenged him to be Jonathan. What God lays on his heart, I will follow him. That’s the kind of trust I have in my chaplain. Going back to why CH Mac chose me for this mission, I believe God is with us and will give us the victories He gave to Jonathan and the armor bearer. But should it go the other way, I will have stood loyal to the end.
It does cross my mind sometimes where we are and all the things that could happen. But I know for a fact that I am where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, being the armor bearer for CH Mac. It is without fear that I say, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”
Good day and God bless.