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Chaplain in Iraq: Songs from the base keep your heart warm
State Rep. Doug Collins

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. His e-mail address is Next week, Collins’ column will run on Christmas Day instead of the usual Tuesday.

Christmas is a time of travel and getting together with friends. Over here, the past three and half months have been about getting to know new people and learning to live in a small environment. As many of us will head home over the next month, I have been reflecting on people I have had the privilege of getting to know while I have been here.

I believe that everyone has a story, and that story is really a song. It is a song that has its own unique melody and words and in the end must be sung by its writer. The songs or stories I have encountered over here have been varied and never dull.

I have met a young mother who, due to mission needs, left a 9-month-old at home to come over here and do her job. I have had the joy of learning from her each week the new and amazing steps in her little one’s life. First steps, teething and sniffles all shared from so far away. I appreciate her dedication and her desire to finish strong over here and get back home very soon.

I have met many couples over here who deployed together. I guess if you are both in the military, then you might as well travel together. The one thing is that the Air Force has a strict policy on living arrangements, and no couples can share living quarters. I know that if my wife were here that would be very hard, but they make the best of the situation and share a special kind of love.

I have met service members whose spouses are military, but they aren’t together over here. In fact, I have met some couples who have been married for less than two years and have been together less than six months due to the high deployment rates right now in the military. The world situation does not seem to slow down, and our leaders keep sending us, but to these newlyweds the thing they want under the tree this Christmas would be a pass to stay at home and begin their lives together.

I have met many with blended families back home, a past that they would like to forget, and many more with dreams ahead of them that light up the night when they talk to me. In this time of family and travel, the gift I have been given this year never would fit under a tree and would take a world of paper to wrap. I have been given the gift of a song, which springs forth from everyone I meet.

Some are loud, some are shy, some are sad, and all are ready to come home. I will forever cherish these songs that people of this base have given me this Christmas.

If I am to be away from those whom I love so much, then I choose to see the gift of God reflected in the faces of these wonderful folks who have graciously shared their song with me. I did not realize it, but I guess I have been like the Magi who are spoken of in the Christmas story. I came to see what was going on and in the process learned more about myself and God than I ever thought I could.