Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Chronicles of my cross - A Changed Man

So far in my chronicles, I have taken you from the attacks of September 11th through the deployments I endured afterwards. I have talked about those events, and my faith, and how both have shaped my over the past few years. Now I must tell you of the day it almost ended.

In Northern Iraq it was rather temperate, usually in the 70's and 80's, and cooler at night. Even with all the gear we had to wear , flack jacket, helmet, water pack, etc., it was usually quite comfortable.(and no, even here, they didn't let us have guns, not that they would have helped where we were.). The real threat here was from mortar attacks. They usually happened daily around 6pm, on the far side of the compound. After a while you got used to the sounds and you could tell whether a boom was incoming or outgoing.

This day however it was unusually hot, and as normal I walked from my tent to my duty area, it was good exercise, and the office was not far away. By the time I got inside I was soak all the way through my DCU top, leaving a funny little dry spot where my cross and dog tags had been under my body armor. We were inside so I took off my armor, it was easier to move in the tight quarters without it on. We had gotten busy, and I had lost track of time. I looked at my watch and it was 7pm. I turned to the Airman beside me and said, "It's hot, they must be taking the night off", referring to the insurgents who usually sent rockets our way.

Not very long after, the whole building rattled. I hit the floor, grabbing my armor on the way down. Usually there was only one, but we always put our armor on just in case. Just as I wrapped the first piece around me there was a second boom, this one noticeably closer. I quickly closed my vest and grabbed my helmet as I got to my feet and started running with everyone else to the bunker. I was near the back pulling along stragglers. Mid stride, there was the third one, BOOM, this time just the other side of a small hill. You could see the debris scatter, and the smoke start to rise. I was about 10 yards from the bunker, running faster still. Just as I tripped over some sandbags and dove into the bunker, the forth rocket hit, just the other side of the blast wall, shaking some gravel loose from the concrete walls.

I was terrified, I pulled out my cross, holding it I started to pray. I had a long conversation with God, as I am sure everyone else in the bunker did too. I don't know how, but I started to see my life, and all the wonderful things that I just passed by every day. I saw all the things I had to live for, and all the things I missed about home. Then, in an indescribable way, one that I could only term as the touch of God, I felt calm, and safe. Before I knew it a half hour had passed. No more rockets. Later they finally sounded the all clear and I resumed my duties.

It took me months to absorb what had occurred. I had been spared, though everything I felt before I arrived told me I was never coming home. And in some ways, I didn't, I was changed, no longer naïve, but touched by the hand of God. I will never forget that day, nor the faith it inspired within me.

Thanks be to the Mudville Gazette, and all of my supporters.