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Chaplain in Iraq: Music can be our solace

POSTED: November 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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State Rep. Doug Collins

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Editor’s note: State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, currently is in Iraq as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. He began his service there in September. He is reporting weekly on the activities at his location.

The life of a military force in a deployed location can be, among many things, scary and mundane.

The one constant is the desire to find a way to escape the world we are currently living in mentally, if only for a few minutes. For some this involves reading, for others maybe watching movies or playing card games. But, there is one common form of relaxation among everyone over here, and that’s music.

From the most junior airman or soldier to the most senior staff, everyone has some type of device from which they listen to music.

In keeping with the environment we are in and the danger that exists, we cannot wear these devices while we are out running or walking around. But in our rooms, the gym or even our work stations the sounds of music are everywhere. You can hear the strains of hip hop, acid rock, country and Southern rock.

Being the ever inquisitive chaplain, I have taken an interest in the music that people put on their various collection of iPods and mp3 players. I have been amazed that some young folks that work the gates have oldies on their player and equally amazed at a senior enlisted person older than me who rocks out with some of the loudest metal sounds around.

I have had the chance to ask why they have the songs they do on their device. Some of the answers are what you would expect, such as I just like the song to this is my favorite artist. However, every once in awhile I run up on someone who has a different story. One person has a song on their iPod that they placed there because it reminded them of their spouse. Another said that the song was special because it helped the person get through some tough times earlier in life.

It made me think of my own songs that I placed on my iPod.

I have music ranging from Bobby Darin to the Foo Fighters and a lot of different styles in between. I have one song, "The Age of Aquarius" by the Fifth Dimension because the song is one of my earliest memories and reminds me of my uncle who served faithfully in Vietnam. I have "Georgia on my Mind" by Ray Charles. I don’t think any explanation is needed there.

I also have "Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone" by Chris Tomlin that has seen me through some hard emotional times here. I can safely say in our services that "Amazing Grace" is a song that transcends time for all generations.

As you can see, we are all partial to our music, even the chaplain. It reminds us of home and the sense of security and joy that it brings. It reminds us of loved ones and things that are left to be done.

Those who know me realize that I am not a big Christmas music person. You’re saying, "How can a chaplain not like Christmas music?" I enjoy it but only in moderation. However, the other day we were talking about Christmas and someone handed me a CD of Christmas music. I quietly looked at it and began to read the names of the songs. My first reaction was this is not something I would listen to, but then I thought a minute more and realized that I along with many more will be celebrating Christmas over here this year, and suddenly the songs became a little more tolerable.

You see, it does not take much to take our mind away over here, and music is the one constant that we all seek to give us the break we need. So the next time you flip on your radio, iPod, or pop in a CD, remember the folks who are serving all over the world and know that music helps us all get through the day.

Thanks for all your support and may you have a wonderful week.



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