This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the following installments here, here, here, and here.) The following essay is from Zachary Moon, a military chaplain currently serving with the Marines and author of Coming Home: Ministry That Matters with Veterans and Military Families (Chalice).
We were back at Camp Wilson, deep inside Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, Southern California. With its rudimentary structures for sleeping, eating, hygiene, and church services, it was not civilization, but it was more than we’d had in a while. We sat on metal benches waiting for hamburgers, sipping on sodas, and sucking in the conditioned-cool air. We wore the dusty grime and smells of desert living, and a real shower was still three days away.
Working together in the same battalion, we had known each other for more than two years—an eternity in an ever-rotating military. He was a junior officer with multiple deployments, and I was the chaplain. He was different from other officers I had known: always smiling his big goofy grin, persistently willing to risk his own neck for every Marine in his charge, and wanting to collaborate and learn from others.
I had seen him almost every day as I moved from position to position, visiting different units. He had recently taken command of one of the artillery batteries, and now more than 150 Marines were his responsibility. It was not his first command, but leading a new unit always takes adjustment, and he was figuring ...1