Reflective Warrior

  • Published
  • By Mr. Roger Hall
  • 39th Air Base Wing

Having a sense of purpose is the driving factor for why we are here.  Do your Airmen know and understand their purpose for being here, being in the Air Force, in the DOD and in life in general?  Every life has value.  Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” That sense of purpose drives individuals to excel.  What are your Airmen’s gifts, talents?  What is their vision of why they are here on this big blue marble floating in space?    

Shortly after I came back from Operation Iraqi Freedom, now OIF 1, the Army decided I needed a break.  I had finished my clinical rotations in the trauma units, spent some time in prison – as part of the staff – and now the Army was sending me to be a basic training chaplain.  I was not a happy camper about having to go to Oklahoma.  After all, I was now an experienced combat Soldier, I should be in a combat arms unit preparing for the next battle, working with leadership and Soldiers as they prepare for war, not working in a basic training battalion where every rotation of trainees will be the same, whining and crying about their decision to join.  What I thought was going to be an unfulfilling experience turned out to be one of the best experiences of my career.  I discovered a renewed sense of purpose, working with young men that were the same age as my oldest child.  They were all scared, worried about the future, questioning their reason for joining the Army and discovering spirituality probably for the first time, if not reconnecting with their spiritual roots.  I remember having a conversation with my commander during which he told me about an event shortly after I had joined the unit.  There was one particular trainee struggling. The morning before a 10K ruck march, I had baptized him in the quad with his fellow trainees attending.  During the march, my commander overheard the young man talking about his baptism and how he felt the weight come off him and how he could now accomplish anything, he was no longer scared. He told his fellow trainee that he was no longer struggling with basic training and found a sense of purpose.  My commander told me that it was at that point he had full faith and confidence in me and I had his full support to do whatever I thought best.  He then shared with me his not-so-good experiences with previous chaplains and how I was different. 

It was a very fulfilling experience connecting with these young American heroes. Every Sunday, the theater was full for Sunday service.  Trainees where inviting others to attend and soon the theater was packed.  Worship became fun again.  I started off family days with a baptism service so the parents, wives and family members could be there with their Soldier.  It was a very moving and emotional time, as parents expressed their gratitude to me for taking care of their sons and handing them their Soldier’s certificate of baptism to take back to their church. 

We would get updates of our Solders’ heroics on the battlefield.  Some of those Soldiers came back with Silver and Bronze Stars with valor. Some came back with invisible wounds, and I don’t know how many did not make it back.  But this much I do know: my young Soldiers were spiritually, mentally and physically fit to go into combat.  Years later, some have even made contact with me on Facebook to let me know what an impact I had on their lives and to update me on their lives thus far. Some still consider me as their chaplain.  While I wish I could remember each one of their names and the conversations we had, I am blessed to know that they remember me and that I made a difference at a critical time in their lives.  You may never know why you are where you are now and your purpose for being there, but this much I am assured of: the master of the universe knows why you are where you are and what your purpose is for being there.  Reflecting on those days always brings a tear to my eye and smile to my face, remembering that for that brief time I was driven with a purpose bigger than myself.  Selfless service can only be seen in the lives that you impact and felt in your heart of hearts.