Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorial Day Vignette

One of the Army priests I've met along the way since I joined the military 2.5 years ago has been deployed three times to Iraq to date.

His ministry during an earlier deployment took him around the battlespace, but under much more dangerous conditions than I've faced during my time here.

He has a photo of himself with the personnel who attended the Christmas Mass he celebrated at one of the sites he visited when he could get there. Everybody in the photo -- including him -- was pretty grimy and haggard. He has another photo from the same base, taken after Easter Mass, but with a much smaller group of men -- less than half.

Later, some Chaplain from echelons above reality, who'd been looking at the attendance numbers for my friend's services, adopted a rather imperious and supercilious attitude and wanted to know, accusingly, why the numbers of personnel at his Masses had fallen off sharply.

The implication, it seemed to my friend, was that he was saying or doing something that was 'turning off' the worshippers, so that they just weren't coming to services anymore. This is not unheard-of, unfortunately, even during my time here Down Range.

But it was definitely not the case with my friend and his buddies.

"They're not coming anymore because they're all dead, Sir."

Amid all the Memorial Day 'sales blowouts' and sporting events, let's not forget what it's really about.

I especially salute the heroism and sacrifice of SPC Michael C. Balsley and CPT Matthew C. Mattingly -- and their loved ones -- on this Memorial Day.

Missed but not forgotten, absent but not lost.

Requiescant in pace.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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