Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gangsta Night

From a recent event at the Suffield Officer's Mess, this is the fearsome "Johnny Chicago" and his moll, "Miss Sippy B". Just don't be askin' Johhny to open up that case and play you a tune, unless you want to get all ventilated, see?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Napoleonic Veterans In Old Age (And Still In Uniform)

Sergeant Taria, Grenadiere de la Garde, 1809-1815

A week or so back I posted about two Union sailors lost on the Monitor, whose faces have been given back to us as computer reconstructions.

A series of black and white images published on Retronaut seem almost as miraculous to me. These grand old men, probably photographed in 1858, likely assembled in Paris for an annual gathering of Napoleon's soldiers. All wear the St. Helene medal, "issued on August 12, 1857 to all veterans of the wars of the Revolution and the Empire".

Some of them still look as trim and dashing as they did in their prime. Some have clearly struggled back into their uniforms. The uniforms themselves look amazing, and it's the first time I've actually seen photographs of actual Napoleonic uniforms.

Grenadier Burg, 24th Regiment of the Guard, 1815

The whole collection may be found here. Quite lovely.

Thoughts on Staff Sgt. Bales, PTSD, and the Way Ahead

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (left), the U.S. soldier who allegedly shot and killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan, at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., on Aug. 23.
Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System/AFP/Getty Images

Like many others in the military community, I've been following the unfolding of the alleged shooting by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales of 16 Afghan civilians. I say "alleged" because while the evidence so far looks pretty damning, the case is still under investigation.

I have no expertise as a political or military pundit, but since this blog is interested in the spiritual and mental health of soldiers, and since Bales' lawyer has already indicated that Bales' mental health and deployment history will be prominent in his defence, I think it's worth noting this story.

One of the go-to people in the press this week has been retired US Army general Peter Chiarelli, who is now working in the area of brain disorder research. In this interview with NPR's Weekend Edition, Chiarelli makes two important points. First, there are simply not adequate diagnostics to screen for "behavioural health issues". Second, he notes that the decision to send Bales to Afghanistan, despite his medical history and previous tours, "is not uncommon for a force that has been fighting in two separate theaters for over 10 years." What Chiarelli implies but does not elaborate on is that Bales may be the presenting symptom of a small, all-volunteer force, pushed to the limit and beyond for a decade and now beginning to come apart.

Chiarelli also puts in an appearance on this piece from yesterday's PBS News Hour. Dr. Jeffrey Johns, the ex-Air Force psychiatrist on the panel with Chiarelli, has some pretty scathing things to say about the US military's screening processes and demands. As Johns says, "the military is not taking care of its own". Several of the callers to last Friday's edition of NPR's Diane Rehm show make the same point.

It's early days yet, but to my mind, here are some things to watch as this story develops.

1) How far will Bales' defence, which seems to be a PTSD variant on "temporary insanity", go given that the US military has tried 43 other soldiers for crimes against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan?

2) Will this case shed any new light on links between post traumatic stress and violent behaviour, or lead to improvements in screening procedures? Will the problem be linked to an army that is too small, doing a job that is too large, and lead us to revisit conscription for future wars?

3) To go beyond my arcs a bit, will this case accelerate NATO and US withdrawals from Afghanistan? I find it worrisome that military affairs bloggers like Tom Ricks seem to calling for the West to "pop smoke" and get out.

A Graduate Seminar From the Boss

Music isn't normally within the scope of this blog, but I love most kinds of music and enjoy talking about it.

If you have any interest in popular music, and have an hour or so to spare, Bruce Springsteen's keynote address at this year's South by Southwest Festival is amazing. Springsteen is poetic, lyrical, funny, and insightful as he talks about music from the 1950s to today. Be warned that the language is a little salty at times. A tour de force in storytelling.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snakes On A Journey: A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston, AB

Lent 4, Lectionary Year B: Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22, Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

The people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. (Numbers 21:7)

A few years back, a film appeared with the rather squirmy title, "Snakes on a Plane". I never watched it. I find air travel arduous enough at the best of times, but the idea of a confined plane cabin infested with snakes, even despite the heroic presence of Samuel Jackson, was simply too unappealing.

In today's first lesson, from Numbers, could be titled "Snakes on a Journey". At the time of this reading, which is about two thirds of the way through the book of Numbers, the Israelites have been in the wilderness for many years since being led out of Egypt. It has been so long, and the journey so difficult, that they have forgotten that their time in Egypt was actually a time of slavery. "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?", they complain to Moses. From their perspective, slavery now looks like job security, food, and shelter. At least they had a good place to live.

The Israelites are so cranky and so hopeless that they cannot recognize their blessings. Not only have they forgotten what God did for them years ago, they've forgotten what God has done for them recently. Manna from the heavens? Are you kidding? "We detest this miserable food," they tell Moses. Get us something better to eat! Get us someplace good!

There is something more profound going on here than just a bunch of whining. For those familiar with the Old Testament narrative, the misbehaviour of the Israelites in the wildnerness is part of a larger pattern. Forgetting God's promises, making idols and trusting in them, breaking God's laws, turning against and killing his prophets -- God's chosen people do all of these things, even after they reach the promised land. The story of God's love and faithfulness is always counterpointed in scripture with the chronic persistence of God's people in going off course and screwing up.

Any parent who has tried to keep driving the family car on a long road trip, with querolous and cranky voices coming from the back, may sympathize, if not with God, then at least with Moses. Poor Moses is the guy who has to hold the whole journey together, even pleading with God not to wipe out the whole bunch (Num 14:13-19). However, our ability to relate with God in this passage is probably limited, since the poor parent trying to get the ungrateful kids to the promised land of the family vacation can't pull over and kill them. God, in contrast, "sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died" (Num 21:6).

Elizabeth Webb, in her commentary on this passage, asks the question that many listeners in church are probably thinking, namely, what does the business with the snakes say about the character of God? To return to my analogy of the family car trip, no parent, however frazzled, would toss a poisonous serpent into the back seat to punish the cranky kids. Webb notes that God's punishment is not arbitrary; it is rooted in the covenant that God makes with his chosen people, as we heard in last Sunday's lesson from Exodus 20:1-7. That passage begins with the words "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me". Seen in this context, the complaints to Moses are not mere kvetching; they are a radical denial of God's work of liberation and of God's faithfulness. The complainers are those who anticipate the one's in John's gospel today who "have not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (Jn 3:18).

Webb's answer to this problem is twofold. First, while God's law may seem harsh to us, to use a word that emerged in today's sermon/bible study at our small chapel, it is just. God's act of creation, like his promise never to destroy the world and his promise to Abraham, may have been unilateral. His covenant with his people is bilateral. God's righteousness is balanced with his justice, and justice entails judgement. The writers of the Old Testament never denied God his rights of judgement and punishment. Likewise, they do not deny God his capacity to show mercy. As Webb notes, "God does not remove the snakes, but provides a means for healing in the midst of danger. God brings healing precisely where the sting is the worst."

When Jesus predicts at the beginning of our gospel passage that he will be lifted up like Moses' snake, he is predicting his own death, as he did in last Sunday's reading about Jesus comparing his body to the Temple (Jn 2:13-22). In some ways, nothing has changed from Numbers. God's people still continue to doubt, disbelieve and rebel against him. God's right to judgment and punishment continue. God continues to waive that right and show mercy. But in another way, everything has changed. The bronze serpent was an emblem of mercy, but it did not change the fact that there were snakes on the journey. The human condition of sin and death did not change. In that respect, the poisonous snakes are symbolic. God could have chosen scorpions, or lightning bolts, or even falling pianos, but the snakes are a reminded of the original serpent in Genesis, the source of sin and death that wars with God's creation. In replacing the bronze serpent on the staff with his broken body on the cross, Jesus I think changes the equation. By taking the serpent out of the picture and replacing it with himself, Jesus points to the new order shortly to be innagurated with his resurrection. In this new order, which we get a foretaste of after Easter, there is no room for snakes, or sin, or death. After Easter, we see the beginning of the road back to the Garden.

That post-Easter road is a long one, to be sure. It is a road as long as the history of the church, as long as the span of our lives, as long as the longest moment of crisis and despair we may experience. Redemption, salvation, resurrection, call them what you will, may seem like the promised land to Moses' people, a thing spoken of but so far away as to seem impossible to believe in. I don't want to say that you just have to believe in the happy ending, for that would seem trite. What I would say is simply to remember the cross. In choosing to become the cure for all that is wrong with us and with the world, Jesus chooses to stand with and to become one of those who suffer. The famous promise of John 3:16 needs to be seen within this context, that Jesus is God's answer to a world that suffers and disbelieves. The cross is not a short-term answer to suffering. Like the people of Moses who looked to the bronze serpent after they were bitten, we will still be wounded and hurt. But we will not die. The cross is the promise of that, and the promise that, at the end of this road, there will be no snakes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seen On The Afternoon Walk

I'm at a conference this week at the Deer Lodge Hotel in Lake Louise, Alberta, a grand old
place of 1910-20 vintage that looks eerily similar to the one in the film The Shining.

I brought my running gear but there is a lot of snow here.

So no running today, alas. Instead myself and chaplain colleague "Foz" King walked over to the frozen Lake Louise, only getting a partial mountain view.

We took this mostly broken trail up towards Lake Agnes, wishing we had brought snowshoes.

And after 1.7 kms of hard slogging were rewarded with this view through the trees.

A happy Mad Padre.

It would be nice to run here sometime. Perhaps this summer.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

God's Hurtin' Albertans A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent

A sermon preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston, AB, 11 March, 2011

Readings for lectionary Year B: Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple (Ps 19:7)

Being an inveterate eavesdropper, I was listening to two older gents talking politics yesterday morning as my wife and I waited to pay our bill at our favorite greasy spoon. "I've voted for them for thirty years"' one said, "but not any more. There are just too many laws these days. They want a law for everyithing. it's not the Alberta I know anymore.".

After living in this province for a year or so myself, I have come to see the truth in the saying that Alberta is Canada's Texas. It's not just the wide-open skies, the honest to goodness cowboys, and the big pickup trucks that every other person seems to drive, but it's also the recent memory of the frontier and the pioneer spirit. Central to that spirit is the idea of personal freedom, the notion that the individual should be as free of constraints as possible. Perhaps that libertarian spirit explains why Alberta was the last province in Canada to make it law that seat belts be worn in motor vehicles.

I think that many of us tend to be Albertan in our relationship with God. We may agree that God exists, we may be grateful for the gift of creation, and thankful for God's blessings in our lives. We may go as far as to agree that a sense of God's love should guide our dealings with others as a kind of golden rule principle. But how many of us would agree that God should bind our lives with law, and agree with the Psalmist that "the law of the Lord is perfect?". Not so many of us, I'm thinking.

Among those who shun churches, there is a widespread perception that Christianity is about self-righteous people who score themselves and others by keeping rules and regulations. Among those of us still in churches, we have an ambiguous relationship to the law. We don't want to think of ourselves as Pharisees, since innumerable sermons on innumerable gospel readings remind us that Pharisaical thinking and rule keeping is wrong and contrary to Jesus' teaching? So isn't law bad, love good?

If we look at Psalm 19 Ina little detail, we can find a simple and balanced view of God's law and love. This psalm is one of the shortest and most succinct statements of theology in scripture, and is worth going through in some detail, especially at those times when we are feeling kind of ornery and Albertan about God.

It has been said that Psalm 19 is about three gifts of God: creation, law, and love. These threengiftsnare complementary but, when seen through the lens of Christian faith, are also arranged in increasing order of importance.

Creation is seen by the psalmist as a proof of God's existence: "The heavens are telling the glory of God" (19:1). The arrangement of earth and sky, day and night, speaks to the psalmist of God's creative power and gift. The idea that nature is proof of the handiwork of God is, by itself, not always helpful. It can be debated by science, and called into question by events, such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami whose anniversary we mark today, which suggest the cruelty and randomness of nature. As Christians, we accept that nature, like our bodies, can turn against us, and we hope, as Paul says in Romans 8, that nature, like ourselves, will be redeemed in God's good time and purpose. However, the gift of creation outweighs its dissatisfactions. The gifts of life, of world, of intellect and identity, and of others to share these things with are signs of God's creative work and love for us.

Law is the second gift and is related to related to creation because it allows God to continue his creative work in the world. Through law, God creates communities and people's who know him and who allow him to be known by others, Our first lesson today, from Exodus 20, only makes sense when we think of it as part of God's creation of the people of Israel. God creates his people out of the descendants of Israel, he frees them from slavery in Israel, and then shapes them and gives them a new identity through the gift of law. An observation which I have found helpful notes that the law in Exodus 20 is not just about the law as a kind of existential burden laid on the self, but rather is always about the self and others. In the first part of Exodus 20 the law governs the poeples's relationship with God and orients them o. god like a GPS showing them the right way. God does knot self-describe as jealous because he iis insecure, but rather because he alone is life giving and wants Israel to keep its lock on him so it can find its way and be a blessing to others in the world. The law allows not only the people of Israel to benefit, but also benefits those others in relation with Israel, such as the resident aliens who also benefit from sabbath keeping (Ex 20:10). In this way Israel will continue to be a blessing to e world that God has created and will continue that creative work by renewing g God's people, as we Christians believe that we are created to be a new people that continues and renews God's covenant with Israel.

The psalmist turns to the third gift, of God's love, when he says that "the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever" (Ps 19:9). it may well seem strange to begin tDiscussion of love with mention of fear, since the two ideas might well be thought of as exclusionary. How, and perhaps more importantly, why, should we fear what we love? However, if the law comes from God's righteousness, by whi h the psalmist means God's perfect goodness, his justice, goodness, hatred of evil, etc, then why shouldn't his creations, who are capable of evil and I perfection, fear him? Indeed, that is the story of Isrsel's wandering in the desert after leaving Israel, and of Israel afterwards when it is settled in Canaan, and indeed of our own stories. If God is the good creator who gives us the law, and if we are capable of breaking that law, then we would be foolish not to fear him. But how many of us have kept the commandments perfectly. The psalmist recognizes that while the law warns us, it does not keep us from straying off the reservation, so the psalmist throws himself on God's mercy, praying that God will "clear me from hidden faults". The psalm ends with one of the loveliest and simplest prayers in scripture, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer" ((19:14).

Psalm 19 is a perfect little template of devotion for the Lenten season. It begins in gratitude for God and for God's gift of creation. It recognizes that God's law comes for. God's righteousness and Resolves to follow that law because it alone is life giving. It then recognizes the difficulty of following that law because of human imperfection, and throws itself on God's mercy, turni to God as "my redeemer". The spirit of Psalm 19 seems to me to be a perfect guide for the remainder of this time before Holy Week, when God''s law, love, mercy and new creation are fully revealed in the cross and in its aftermath. If you find it helpful as a devotional practice for these remaining weeks of Lent, try to memorize the last verse of this psalm and pray it daily, and more often as you find it helpful, and especially when you're feeling all ornery and Albertan, because (and apologies to singer Corb Lund for borrowing the name of his band), we need God most when we are hurting' Albertans. Amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Faces From the Depths: Two Sailors of the Monitor Seen Again

In one of those odd intersections of time and history, the two most famous warships of the American Civil War are in the news. One hundred years ago, the Confederate ironclad warship CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merimack, sailed up the Elizabeth River to attack a flotilla of Union warships at Hampton Roads. Those wooden ships were no match for the Virginia, but steaming to the rescue was the Union's own ironclad, the USS Monitor. The ensuing duel ended the age wood and sail and started the modern naval era.

The following year, on 31 December, 1863, Monitor foundered and sank off Cape Hatteras, NC, while being towed, with the loss of 16 of her 62 crew. The wreck was located in 1973, and in 2002, when the Monitor's revolving gun turret was raised
to the surface, the remains of two crewmen were discovered inside.

Today the Louisiana State University FACES laboratory, in partnership with NOAA (US Natl Oceanic and Atmosperhic Administration)has released computer reconstructions of the faces of these men, based on their skeletal remains, using criminal forensic methods. An article in the Virginian Pilot Online describes how efforts to identify these men by DNA have failed, but based on the evidence of the remains and on naval records of the time, it is thought that the older of the two men was Robert Williams, the fireman who tended the Monitor's furnace and boilers.

I find it both eerie and moving to look at these faces, recovered from the oceans of time and sea, and see them as they might have once been.

Robert Williams?

Plans for a permanent memorial and resting place at Arlington National Cemetery are under way.

Beer, It's Lovely!

My buddy Padre Gibby sent me this lovely vintage ad today via the Retronaut site and it had to arrive in the middle of my Lenten fast from beer, spirits, and the demon drink, and me counting the hours to an alcohol-free happy hour this afternoon. Oh well, the laugh made up for the thirst.

Gibby just went over to Kabul with the next rotation of Canadian trainers to the ANA, and so my consolation is that there probably won't be a lot of beer for him, either.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seen On The Morning Run

After an unseasonably warm February which totally spoiled me, winter has returned to tale some erratic swipes at SE Alberta. Today I staggered along a trail that winds around the hill in my neighborhood, and after pausing for breath at the top of this icy little ascent, which did not help my average pace one bit, caught this grey morning and evidence of a small legion of dogwalkers who, like me, are no doubt waiting for spring

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Cross: Burden or Blessing? A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Lent

Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston, AB, 4 March, 2012

2 Lent, Lectionary Year B: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22:23-31, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mk 8: 34)

Do you have a cross to bear? Do you know anyone who uses that expression, say, someone with a chronic condition, or a problem child or relative, or a boss from hell? People talk about "the cross I have to bear" as an involuntary and unwelcome condition of suffering, and I am sure that the expression is routed in today's gospel reading and its parallel texts in Matthew (16:24) and Luke (9:23).

How many people, yourself included, hear or read those words of Jesus and conclude that Christianity is about suffering? It certainly seems as if this text is the call to a self-inflicted, seriously bad time. I recall attending a Catholic Mass with friends and hearing the priest, in a thick Polish accent, saying (as best I could understand it) "Jesus suffered, so we must suffer".

"So we must suffer." Yikes. Not the sort of message that a church would want to plant on its front lawn: "Welcome to St. Bloggins. Come suffer with us". No thank you. We'll go down the street to Crestview Bible Church, where we can get a free latte and bagel before the service, and where the praise band totally rocks.

Perhaps churches have retreated from the idea and message of costly and self-sacrficing discipleship because we fear that it is so unattractive and so contrary to the spirit of the age that we will never be able to sell it. There is certainly a lot of baggage in our talk of carrying crosses that doesn't help. Christianity has long promoted an idea of the separation of body and spirit, called dualism, which says that the body must suffer for the spirit to be blessed. Or, simply, body bad, spirit good. Some austere Christian devotional practices, such fasting and self-imposed abstinences during the season of Lent, seem to reinforce this idea. So it's not surprising that mainline Protestant churches often seem more comfortable talking about liberation and social justice, or that evangelical churches seem to promote a gospel of personal prosperity and self-realization. I'm speaking in near caricatures, of course, but I think it's true that Christians today struggle with the idea that God wants us to suffer.

What if this idea, that God wants us to suffer, isn't grounded? What if it's a misreading of today's text and of similar language elsewhere in scripture?

I heard a commentator from Luther Seminary, suggest that up to this point in Mark's gospel, Jesus isn't that interested in suffering. If we review what has happened so far in Mark's account, Jesus has being going around teaching, healing people, freeing them from demons, and feeding hungry crowds. Jesus is certainly not interested in adding to people's burdens or increasing their suffering (an instructive example here is his conversation with the Pharisees in Mark 7 over human and religious laws around ritual handwashing). If anything, Jesus seems firmly opposed to suffering. That's why he's the Messiah.

In fact, the conversation with Peter and the disciples about taking up crosses begins at the start of Mark 8 with a discussion about Jesus as the Messiah. For the first time Jesus is letting his friends know something he has previously been reluctant to talk about, that he is indeed the Messiah, the Saviour of God's people, but he also tells them that he is a Saviour that has to die for his people. This unwelcome news explains Peter getting upset, because Peter, quite reasonably, expects that a Saviour is going to be a conquering king, a heroic rescuer. What good is a rescuer who just gets killed? The future that Jesus is predicting simply doesn't track with anyone's idea of what a Messiah is all about.

I read somewhere that Jesus never tells his followers to "take up your sword and follow me". That would be a call that people could get behind. It's relatively easy to call people to arms and to battle, especially if they believe that they might win. Following a triumphant king is a feelgood proposition, especially if you will be at the king's right hand when the post-triumph world is being arranged. But a call to take up a cross is different, much more difficult to understand because it seems so unwelcome.

No where in the gospels is there the suggestion that things have to be the way of the cross. The very next story in Mark, the Transfiguration (Mk 9:2-13), links Jesus with the God of glory and power who could arrange the world anyway he might like. But the story and character of that God, starting in Genesis with the coveant to Noah, is that God will set aside his power of coercion and will instead be the God of patience and faithfulness who will keep covenant with Israel. What Jesus is now beginning to show his disciples is how that covenant will unfold next, through an action of self sacrificing love and forgivness which, after the resurrectrion, will show the power of God's love and life over sin and death. If we don't understand the cross in these terms, we miss the picture and just see it as a burden.

What if we as Christians were to see our role in this as something exciting? What if it was the chance to step into our own space, into God's space, in a way that is different from the world's priorities about self importance, winners and losers, wealth and power, and say to the world that we are standing with God because it's the right place to be? Taking that stand might not be comfortable or easy, because it is self sacrificing to go against the grain, to refuse some of the world's priorities and values, but isn't that what we were called to do in our baptism, when we were given our own little cross on our forehead?

This week I've been thinking about self-imposed sacrifice, and I have been wondering if maybe the world gets this idea more than the church thinks. I've been thinking about athletes who embrace gruelling training regimes, or soldiers who embrace the suck of long training and hardship, or artists who labour long and hard at their craft. All of these people accept a burden because they feel a sense of reward in their achievements, and often they make this burden look attractive to others who are not athletes or soldiers or artists.

Perhaps we as Christians need to reexamine our attitudes around what God is calling us to do and be. If we were to see the life of faith as more than the occasional hour spent in church, but rather as a vocation to live and grow in a way that cuts against the grain of the culture, so that we lived more for God and for each other rather than for ourselves, perhaps our crosses would look less like burdens and more like blessings?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"A Place Which Provides Peace, Quiet and Privacy": A Military Chapel in Afghanistan

In garrison and on bases, military chapels tend to be quiet, infrequently used places. I once heard them described as being like the formal sitting parlour in a house, a place reserved for formal occasions rather than for everyday use. On deployment, however, chapels can be the one place in a FOB or a base where troops can be alone with their thoughts, find counsel, or seek God's presence.

Today the British MOD profiles St. Martin of Tours, a chapel built by members of 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, for their RC padre, at a British FOB in Helmand Province.

Father David Smith stands in front of a mural of St Martin with its artist, Staff Sergeant Jones Lee of the United States Marine Corps
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

Do you have a story about the role a chapel played in your tour or deployment? If so, please consider leaving it in the comments section below. MP+

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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