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, the second installment here, and the third, here.) The following essay is from US Army chaplain Terry Cobban, who reflects on Emmanuel, "God with us," in the midst of horrific physical pain incurred on the field.
Four-leaf clover, rabbit’s foot, lucky penny—all things people keep on hand for luck. In the military, the list includes the chaplain. “The chaplain’s with us, nothing bad’s gonna happen,” is a sentiment many chaplains are familiar with. It is a nice sentiment, but it's false. Most chaplains are not so naïve as to believe it. Bad things happen even when chaplains are present.
Fortunately, it’s during the tragedies—accidents, attacks, miscalculations that result in the loss of life—that Jesus can meet us and draw us into an ever more intimate relationship with the Father. I know this firsthand.
On December 20, 2007, I was with my unit in Iraq, north of Baghdad. During a return convey to our Forward Operating Base, we stopped to visit a local leader. A group of us went into the leader’s compound, and when it came time to leave, he insisted on showing us a nearby market. We obliged and made ready to go.
Our commander sent two of our troops into the broad avenue onto which the compound opened. We waited for the all-clear before proceeding one at a time out of the gate and into the street. I stepped over the gate and into the street—and ...1