Comforting the Brethren

Roger Rodriquez

FrontLine • July/August 2006

I am reminded of Matthew 25:40, which reads, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

When our battalion was deployed to Afghanistan, little did I realize the remoteness of where we would be located. Our FOB (Forward Operating Base) was started from scratch. We slept in one-man pup tents on the dirt in what seemed to be 100-degree temperatures even at night. (The everyday temperature was between 120–130 degrees.)

Because we were on flat terrain with no vegetation or trees, dust devils constantly plagued us—one even reached the size of a football field in circumference! Dust storms so thick would come that you could not see your hand in front of your face.

This chaplain had a saying that a lot of soldiers remember to this day—in fact, it was said when I jumped out the backside of the chopper: “This place ain’t fit for man nor beast!” I thought often of how Abraham and his faithful wife Sarah felt. My heart really went out to Sarah. There were awful living conditions that seem to have no end in sight.

This was truly a place that could break your will. Comfort and luxuries were nonexistent. It wasn’t until after three months that we slept in big tents with air conditioning. Eventually washing machines came. (I had gotten tired of scrubbing my clothes by hand!) Although we did eat, the same five meals got to be boring real fast. Because of the extreme heat, periodic showers— sometimes no showers at all for a week at a time—I began to lose a lot of weight. I got down to eating just one MRE cracker a day. The soldiers that I ministered to saw me wasting away and were soon ministering to me. How God works!

I have said all this not so that you will feel sorry for me, but to praise God for my brothers and sisters in Christ who were concerned enough to send care packages. I wish to say “thank you” to all of the churches and individuals who gave sacrificially to us. We especially saw their generosity at Christmastime, which lifted hearts that were saddened because of being separated from loved ones. After a while the soldiers heard that care packages were coming in on a regular basis, filled with needful items and wonderful snacks. When soldiers would come to me for certain requests, I would remind them that “this came from local churches—people who care about you enough to give.”

Continue to pray for America’s soldiers and the chaplains who minister to them.

CH (LTC) Roger Rodriquez (USAG, Fort Irwin, CA )

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)