Tuesday, May 12, 2009


A recent news article I read told the story of how in March 2006, a group of soldiers (from the 101st Airborne Division) with their faces concealed and wearing black long underwear, descended upon a farmhouse some 20 miles south of Baghdad. Once inside they gang-raped a teenage girl, shot her in the head, then killed her younger sister and their parents as well. The soldiers then tried to burn the bodies by setting fire to the house. One of the soldiers was recently convicted of the crime and could face the death penalty for his actions.

Unfortunately, many reading this same news account will wrongly assume that this is a common occurrence during warfare. Nothing could be further from the truth!

As a United States Army Chaplain, I served in Iraq from 2006 through 2007 during the time of extreme IED (Improvised Explosive Device) activity throughout the Al Anbar region. Enemy activity was at its zenith. There were over 160 attacks, per month, on U.S. soldiers.

One night, I was approached by my executive officer and was asked if I would fIy, by helicopter, to one of the Army outposts near the Syrian border to minster to a unit which had just lost two of their men in a firefight with the enemy.

Early the next morning I boarded a Navy Sea Stallion chopper and arrived at the outpost. I was greeted by the commanding officer and was given the details of the horrific battle that occurred the day before.

I was asked to minister to four men who survived the encounter. These men were no strangers to warfare. They had been in Iraq before and the sights, smells, and sounds of battle were commonplace.

All of the men were deeply grieving the loss of their friends and questioning why they had survived while their friends had died. In particular, the platoon sergeant of this unit, was having a most difficult time processing the death of these two soldiers. I came to discover that one of the slain soldiers was a very close personal friend of this platoon sergeant.

I also learned that, once the firefight had ended, he was part of the team that had captured the aforementioned insurgents who had inflicted the mortal wounds upon their friends.

The platoon sergeant told me: “Chaplain, I had those two guys on the ground and my weapon was pointed at the back of their heads. For just a moment, I saw the face of my friend and the faces of the wife and children he left behind. Part of me wanted to pull the trigger and end the miserable existence of these two bastards and yet another part of me knew that such actions were wrong.”

After listening to him relate the awful events of that day, I told him that he had done the right thing and that his honor was still intact. This soldier could hold his head high knowing that he had acted morally.

This is not an isolated incident. Our combat forces face these kinds of moral dilemmas daily. I can attest to you the truth that the vast majority of our servicemen make the right choices and perform their duties with distinction, valor, and character.

I am so very proud to serve with troops like these.

This Blog Post provided by: Chaplain (MAJ) Daniel Petsch