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A chaplain in Iraq: Some things remind Collins of home

POSTED: October 3, 2008 5:01 a.m.
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State Rep. Doug Collins is serving as a chaplain in Iraq.

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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 earlier this month. He is reporting weekly on the activities at his location.

It is often said that you don’t know what you have until it is gone, or in my case you get on a plane and end up very far from home in a place that is completely different than what you are used to.

However, I have found that even with all the things that are different, like having to walk 100 yards to the bathroom if you wake up in the middle of the night, some things are still the same.

The base is full of normal things with just a different twist. We have a wonderful hospital that provides some of the best care in the world and is on the cutting edge of trauma care. Yet, when the doctors and nurses come to work they are carrying their weapons and wearing body armor.

We have places to eat. Granted, the menu is not special order, but for our situation it is a banquet. We are fortunate to have hot food at every meal, even with some ice cream or pie for dessert. I am fully aware that not all have it that good out here. The only difference between walking into our dining hall and walking into a restaurant in Gainesville is that instead of tripping over stuff dropped on the floor, here you have to be careful not to step on the weapon of someone sharing the meal with you.

We have stores that stock basic items and gyms for working out, but we are all dressed alike. We are a lot like home, just a little different.

I just finished going around on visitation as the sun was coming up over the base. As I went around, I heard people talking about normal things such as family, friends, ball games (yes, I have been getting a hard time about the Georgia game) and activities planned for later. Only as I drove away and looked around at the fence separating our world here from the world around us are you reminded you are not in Gainesville anymore.

I believe that God gives us the ability to adapt to our surroundings and the strength to do our work in even harsh environments. I see that lived out each day in the lives of these wonderful men and women who I have the privilege of serving.

One last thought, as I turned the corner today and saw the sun coming up, it reminded me of the movie "Good Morning Vietnam" when Robin Williams’ character played the song "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. In my mind the differences we face are really best handled in how we view where we are.

It doesn’t matter how far we are from home; the people working here each day make our country proud.



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