Forwarded by JayPMarine.

From A Chaplain Serving In Iraq

Hot and sunny on Good Friday…quiet in Fallujah and Ar Ramadi. The Coalition has announced a pause in offensive operations. Humanitarian aid is being searched and then allowed into the city of Fallujah. Defensive operations continue 24/7. It is all war, all the time.

The bad guys are regrouping. So are the Marines. The brawl will begin again… probably tonight. All intelligence points to the bad guys redistributing ammo, enlisting kids in the fight and moving for new cover. Convoys are limited. Danger of ambush is high. Life in Blue Diamond continues, with an edge.

Imagine a place the size of Lakeland Shores with five times the population, one asphalt street, and two dirt roads. Due to the siege, no sanitation service for three days… that includes pumping satellites. We are on the edge of the town. We see the minarets of the city and we hear the Imams’ sermons as they rail against us. It is a good thing few here understand Arabic because I can tell you the preachers weren't teaching the golden rule today.

Morale, sky high… extra intensity… friends are on the line. The senior NCO's and officers here feel the pull the most. They have served with or trained everyone on the line. The Corps is a small community. This is very personal. If a person can do something to help the outcome of the fight, they' will find a way. It's that kind of day… all for one, one for all.

I divide the day - Holy Week service planning, convoy prayers, and COC intercessory prayers. First, I go to the DIV Chaplain office to meet with the command Chaplain, - Chaplain Divine, the fighting Irishman. What a man! RC Christians, be proud you've got a great priest here. He spares nothing to get to his Marines. He loves Marines and he loves God.

He waded into Ar Ramadi, during the fire fight three days ago, to provide ministry at the aid station. He came back weary but satisfied he was where he was needed. He's on the road, to all the FOB's ministering to Marines. I had the privilege of praying for him, this morning. If he goes down the morale in this Division would take a huge hit. They love him.

I work to coordinate Good Friday, Easter Sunrise and Protestant Easter Service. Having services in a war zone is a little different. We have to worry about getting large numbers of people in one place. One mortar round into the right place could kill a lot of marines. Organists are in sort supply and we don't have any organ music. We are going to worship and it will be well attended. We need Easter because we live in the valley of the shadow of death… we need the resurrection.

Twice a day I go to the 'Cave' - the combat operations center, housed in a former palace. It is poorly lighted and the hub of fighting the battle. I stand in the corner and pray for each person/position and those they represent. I don't know many of them, but God does. I pray for wisdom, strength, mercy, endurance and God's presence for each warrior, and all those they serve or represent. I cover the Cave and the battle field as I look at live imagery projected on the wall.

The COC is loaded with Marines. The senior NCO's all look like NFL lineman. The junior officers look like marathon runners and the mid-grade officers look like NFL halfbacks. The senior officers are lean, tanned and serious… deadly serious. The place exudes the warrior spirit. If you are a civilian I can't explain it and won't apologize for it. If you are a veteran you don't need to have the warrior spirit explained.

These Marines are in a street fight. They don't have the word 'lose' in their vocabulary. They've been bloodied and their anger is up. The intensity in the COC is contagious. This is a tribe of warriors. They exist to close with and destroy the enemy. They have their tribal mores, rituals and rites. Their enemy has desecrated members of the tribe and taunted the Marines. They've asked for a fight. The marines are in full pursuit and absolutely determined to annihilate their foe.

I'm sure that sounds harsh to politically correct ears and those for whom this type of violence is anachronistic. It does not sound foreign here - it is status quo. We are in a violent land, with an evil element and they are having violence visited upon them. There is no room here for half-measures. This is a test of wills…one side will prevail. That is clearly understood and never discussed. It is obvious. We aren't playing paintball, we are at war.

Convoys go out of here regularly. I hunt them down, pass out a small card with a convoy prayer on it, gather whoever wants to pray and we pray. The number of prayers is going up hourly, as the ambushes continue.

Here's how intense it has become. Today's standard pre-convoy brief now includes the following: “If you drive into the kill zone there are two options. Drive through and on, or reverse and drive out. Do not stop. If you are blocked into the kill zone, displace from the vehicle, find cover, fix the target, engage, maneuver, and destroy the hostile forces. “Target selection rules have changed. Avoid civilians, if possible. Hostile forces are now using civilians as shields. We are not interested in losing more Marines. If you can avoid putting civilians in your line of fire, avoid it. If not, fire to take out the hostile forces.”

Implication? Chilling. We've entered a new dimension. We are fighting an enemy who respects no laws of humanity, knows no rules of land warfare and gives no quarter. How do we fight, without become barbarians ourselves?

In a place this small, I walk from shop to shop and just say, “Hi.” I can't tell you the number of times someone says, “Hey, chappy, it's great to have you here.” Something about seeing a chaplain is calming to folks this close to the fight.

Good Friday in Ar Ramadi while you're having lunch I'll lead the evening Good Friday service. We will remember our Savior who willingly laid down His life that we might live - and we'll be thinking about young Marines and soldiers who are willingly putting their lives on the line so Iraqis can be free. No greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his brother.