Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Transformed in a Moment

One morning in Iraq, I left battalion headquarters to ride across the base and go to a meeting with the Command Sergeant Major of the Garrison.  We were meeting about the 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony.  We had much of the program in place, but we needed a chaplain for the invocation.  When I told the commander's assistant where I was going, two or three people in the office right away said, "Sergeant Major F*&K This!"  And smiled.  The garrison CSM had a reputation for swearing that was noticeable in an Army unit in Iraq.  I had not heard a sentence from him without an F-bomb.

The chaplain everyone assumed would give the invocation had just been transferred to the north.  Chaplain Valentine, the post Catholic chaplain, taught philosophy at Fordham University in New York City.  After 9/11 he decided to volunteer for the chaplaincy.  He was on his third tour.  From our base, he rode convoys and flew to every outpost in the south of Iraq.  The north was short of chaplains, so he went off to minister at the small outposts north of Baghdad.

My pick for the invocation was Chaplain Eugen Henke of the Wisconson National Guard.  He is an inspiring speaker and left his post as top chaplain in the state to volunteer for deployment.  

I knew as Chaplain Henke and I walked toward the CSM's office that the meeting would go well, but I was a little uncomfortable at the prospect of talking about a prayer sitting between a chaplain and the CSM.  I could hear the CSM talking as we neared his office.  "Get this F--ing request to headquarters. . ."

When we walked into the office, I introduced the two men.  We sat down and talked about the ceremony, the invocation and the flow of the event.  We spoke for almost 15 minutes.  Not ONE use of the F-bomb.  It was an incredible performance.  In fact, no one believed me when I got back to our headquarters.

As I walked down the hallway with Chaplain Henke after the meeting I made small talk, but in my head I kept thinking "Un-f*&king-believeable!!!!"