[author’s note: from the time of preparation and deployment to Iraq.]
April 4, 2010
A Happy and Blessed Easter to all! The celebration of Easter is the high point of the Church year and reminds us of the saving events that led to Jesus’ triumph over sin and death. This is the time of joy and we rejoice in the parish over those who have joined the Church and all who claim the names Catholic and Christian. However, it can be difficult at times to remember joy, even hard to laugh. I was thinking this last week here at scenic Ft. Hunter-Ligget California; a mere 23 miles to the nearest town.
We were issued our bullet proof vests this last week. They are look nice and you feel safe, but they weigh 25 lbs. Put on your helmet, rucksack (backpack), camelback (water carrier with one and a half gallons of water) and other assorted items and you have over 55 lbs of stuff you’re carrying. As many old Soldiers will attest, some of this stuff is not new and has been in storage for many years, thus the smell is enchanting. I liken it to putting a dead goat on your back that weighs over 55 lbs. Fortunately my body size is “extra petite plus” so the weight is not that bad. But there are other circumstances that conspire to rob one of Easter joy here.
Our classrooms, when we are allowed inside, are a half mile away. A half mile walk with 55 lbs. of smelly stuff on your back you say? This is not the hard part. The hard part is the last 200 yards simply called “THE HILL.” THE HILL is a very steep walk uphill. How bad is it? Two people were sent to the hospital with chest pains the first time we walked THE HILL. They turned out to be fine but ordered to ride in a vehicle up THE HILL. The rest of us were too out of breath to talk or complain. I was able, after a two minute rest, to recite a perfect Act of Contrition, anticipating my heart exploding and to anoint four 50 year old Soldiers who looked like collapsed wet rags (pinned under 55 lb. stinky goat carcasses).
We all eventually got into the building on THE HILL and collapsed into our chairs. Someone, I don’t know who, starting laughing. Before long, others joined in. Here we were, tired, sweaty, leg muscles exhausted and a large group was laughing. The only reason more didn’t laugh is that they were praying to St. Joseph for a Happier Death at the time. Difficult as it seemed, laughter and even joy entered in. Here a bunch of middle aged Soldiers defied the odds and walked up THE HILL with a load of fragrant gear on their backs. We made it.
I really think it was Easter joy appearing through the dark of doubt, flab and aging bodies. The Resurrection does that for us, even in times of hopelessness and fear. Happy Easter Joy to ALL!