Experiencing Combat with a Man of God

The integration of Chaplains in US military operations is so seamless that it is actually difficult to read a story about ongoing combat operations without hearing about the role of the military’s spiritual advisors.  In a recent piece at the LA Times about the commander’s changing tactics in Afghanistan, the reporter happens to describe a Chaplain riding in an MRAP with soldiers: 

“If anything happens, tell my babies I love them,” [a soldier] said.  But the rest of the crew did not want the jinx of such dark talk.

“Knock it off,” [another] said.

“Yeah, knock it off,” echoed Capt. David Burris, the unit’s chaplain.

The chaplain has come under attack twice in the short time he has been in Afghanistan. No one was seriously hurt, but the guardsmen jokingly argue about whether he is a protective talisman or a Taliban magnet. Still, when in peril, they turn to Burris for reassurance.

From the back of the MRAP, the chaplain piped up once more across the intercom.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,” Burris said. “Thy .50-cal. and 240, they comfort me.”

Someone will probably complain about the mixture of religious speech and military firepower coming from a US Chaplain, or say he was using the official government intercom to proselytize the spiritually-vulnerable combat-hardened soldiers.

To the men in the MRAP, however, he’s just one of the guys–sustaining them through combat operations by his sacrificial ministry of presence.  And they love him for it.

God bless him in his ministry.

And a .50-cal in the hands of an American soldier in Afghanistan is quite a comfort.