Four years ago on this date, I finalized plans to fly across the country to meet up with an Army Chaplain (whom I'd never met before, but had learned of "through channels") who was recently back from a year in Iraq.
I'd never been on an Active-Duty Army post before, and had never spent much time around Soldiers in uniform, not counting the Cadets and Cadre from ROTC at the couple of schools where I'd taught biology in the mid-80s and from 1999-2002.
I wasn't at all sure what to expect when I got there, but figured I'd better at least attempt to get some sense of what I might be getting myself into, should I actually get permission from my Jesuit Provincial to seek a commission as an Army Chaplain.
I hadn't yet told my parents or colleagues at school about the whole Chaplaincy thing, and actually wouldn't do so for a number of months hence, until after I got the formal go-ahead from my Provincial.
My travel planning for this excursion was interrupted by having to do Saffar's funeral in Dayton. The emotional wrenching involved in that experience, in retrospect, kept me from obsessing too much about my fears concerning my weekend foray into the unknown world of the military.
The Chaplain I met was very gracious, and spent quite a bit of time showing me around Post, and relating his experiences from the deployment he'd just finished. He was quite proud of the new vehicle he'd been able to purchase with money he'd saved up from his time Down Range.
I was impressed with all the medals and ribbons he came back with, too.
After a couple of days there, I asked him whether he thought I might be able to make it as an Army Chaplain, what with my advanced age, arthritic joints, idiosyncrasies, and all.
He said, "No."
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ