Rambling by a Combat Life Saver

[author’s note: The Ramblings under the category of “Ramblings in and on Iraq” comprise articles written for the bulletin of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Bells of St. Mary’s, in Grand Island, Nebraska during the period I was preparing and was deployed to Iraq with my unit in the Army Reserve, the 103d Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC).]
March 14, 2010

After two weeks working in a secret environment in Fort Lee, Virginia it is good to get back to Des Moines for continued training for the next week. By the time you read this I’ll have finished my Combat Life Saver (CLS) course. While a useful course in life saving techniques it also requires us to start an IV; that is, putting a needle into an artery to deliver fluids. I’m not worried about me doing that to someone else; after all, I can assure them of great pain. In fact you might see a news item on Fox News that says, “Army perfecting new torture technique, chaplains sticking needles in unwilling victims!” Or with some more alliteration, “Piontkowski Punctures Private Peterson in an effort to Persuade the Prisoner to Plead guilty.” Actually what I’m really afraid of is the person who will be poking me in an attempt to start an IV.

To allay that fear, I’ve been taking careful notes on my fellow chaplains and chaplain assistants who will be taking the course with me. One of them will be my battle buddy whom I will stick, and will be stuck by them. Chaplain Smith is older than I am, thus prone to shaky hands– strike him off the list. Chaplain Jones drinks a lot of coffee– show stopper there. Sergeant White is very meticulous; promising, but I know he will not give up and would think nothing of sticking me twenty times to get it right—no thank you. Sergeant Bill is young and recently married. When he thinks about his wife he starts loosing focus—I don’t need an unfocused person with a needle looking at me. Then there’s Specialist Snuffy. He’s young, happy and blessedly ignorant about life. He would actually apologize if he caused someone pain, so he’s the one for me. That makes the fear less, but it is still there.

Lent is still here, but it is Laetare Sunday. It is the Latin word for happiness and we read in the Gospel the happiness of the father whose prodigal son returns to him. It is a reminder that even when repenting and turning again to the Lord, this must be a cause for happiness. Sometimes it is hard to be happy, as when a loved one dies. We have sadness in the parting but happiness in turning that person over to the loving God who can forgive, redeem and love. Happiness is the great symptom of faith. So I’m ready to get jabbed by the needle, unless I find Specialist Snuffy has been drinking coffee.

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