|Father Joe washes the feet of soldiers who volunteered to take part in Holy Thursday's mass|
In past posts, I've mentioned our catholic community here on FOB Salerno, the Queen of Peace Catholic Church. The priest here presiding over the entire brigade's area of operations is Father Joseph Hannon. Father Joe is quite a remarkable man, you can read more about him here in a recent story that the military featured him in. At 68 years old, I have to say his energy level is quite inspiring; which I'm guessing is closely correlated with his religious workout routine.
Several weeks ago Father Joe announced to us that his one year tour here was coming to an end and that he had received orders to head back to the States. Originally the Army (in it's infinite wisdom) told Lt. Colonel Hannon to prepare to make his way back to his post at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas on April 20th. Knowing that his replacement was likely at least a month away from deploying, leaving those of us here without a priest over Easter, Father Joe volunteered to extend his tour and ultimately convinced the budget hawks back in Washington that this extension was a "worthwhile, necessary expenditure".
|Preparing the eucharist for adoration in the side chapel|
With the traditional washing of the feet and even a procession to a side chapel to store the Eucharist for adoration, you had to remind yourself often that you were in Afghanistan. Of course the arsenal of M-4 machine guns lining the aisles and 9mm handguns on the hip of each parishioner also served as a great reminder of our locale as well.
Up until this point, I've made a conscious effort to keep the overall mood of this blog a positive one. While death and destruction are a function of where we currently reside, I don't really see the need to dwell on these unfortunate side effects of combat. If you'd like to read more about those issues, read the news...
April 22, 2011 will be a day that those of us on the 3-19th ADT never forget. The fact that it was also Good Friday only compounds the magnitude of what so many around FOB Salerno saw and witnessed on this fateful day.
|Captain Joshua McClimans|
On Good Friday, the day billions around the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Lord called one of his own home from FOB Salerno. Captain Joshua McClimans, an emergency room nurse here at the Salerno Combat Support Hospital, lost his life as a result of indirect fire during an attack by insurgents.
I still hesitate to post such grim news, in an effort to avoid unnecessary worry from so many of you devout supporters. However, as I think about the fundamental purpose I started writing in the first place- that of serving as a historical record to document my year here, I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention this gentlemen who made the ultimate sacrifice. The fact that he was an emergency room nurse, sent here to help others in the first place, only makes such a loss that much harder to swallow.
|Candidates preparing to state their baptismal vows|
Easter Sunday brought another great crowd to mass, but it was the after-party that was really special. In a well-disguised, covert operation, several of us were able to lure Father Joe back to the 3-19th ADT compound where he thought he was just going to enjoy lunch in the rose garden. Upon arriving on the grounds, Father was delighted to see a few other parishioners already present with a large "thank-you" banner and even a few Easter treats. Having known that Father Joe was a native Hoosier, born in East Chicago, Indiana; we coordinated to have a State of Indiana flag flown over FOB Salerno on Easter Sunday in his name. Just after noon, our group moved over to the flag pole where his flag was flying and several of us made an official presentation of the colors to Father. In addition to his flag, Father Joe was delighted to hear that he had also received a letter from Lt. Governor Becky Skillman; thanking him for providing such a critical service to Hoosiers, Americans, and those around the globe.
|Presenting Father Joe with his State of Indiana flag and his letter of gratitude from|
Lt. Governor Becky Skillman
Yet once again, another week has passed and an additional set of memories has been archived. Some of these memories will last a lifetime, while others will be stored until the mind re-organizes them in an effort to prioritize, ultimately tossing out the non-essential details.
While the Lord called one of his sons home on Good Friday, he also welcomed three new ones into his church over Easter. It happens ever so often, a grieving family is soothed by the birth of a new child. While all of these emotions can seem to push you to a tipping point, rest assured that all is under control. As I try to envision what memories I'll be able to recall in decades to come, there is little doubt that this past week will take up an extremely disproportionate chunk of space on my mental hard drive.
Please keep the McClimans family in your prayers, as well as the families of all the troops that have given their lives over the last ten years of war here in Afghanistan- all in an effort to better the way of life for others. Rest assured that your continued prayers and support can be felt clear over here, 7,500 miles away.
|Father donning his Easter lei with members of the Ugandan choir, Captain Annette Podolak, and I|