War on Terrorism

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Face of Defense: Chaplain Provides Spiritual Aid on the Fly

By Marine Corps Cpl. Isaac Lamberth
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

COMBAT OUTPOST NOW ZAD, Afghanistan, May 31, 2012 – Marines and sailors have fought alongside each other for more than 230 years, with Navy corpsmen, doctors and nurses continuously keeping Marines fit for battle. But for many, spiritual needs are another important element of readiness.

Navy Chaplain (Cmdr.) Francis Foley, command chaplain for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, visited Marines and sailors here May 27.

“It is such a great feeling when the chaplain comes out here to visit us,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Rick Chapman, police advisory team executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Chapman said the visits not only increase morale, but also allow service members to seek spiritual guidance.

“The Chaplain Corps provides Marines the opportunity to look into the spiritual side of life,” Chapman said. “When the chaplain visits and the Marines attend the services, it gives them a taste of home and allows them to forget about the worries they have around here.”

Chapman said Marines go to the services to partake in religious activities and to be around others who share their beliefs with a leader of their faith. But the chaplain’s presence also gives them a chance express their anxieties and day-to-day frustrations, he added.

“Father Foley’s visit gives the Marines here the ability to vent to someone else,” Chapman said. “It’s very helpful for them to talk to an outsider about certain subjects.”

Foley is one of four Catholic chaplains in Regional Command Southwest. With so few chaplains in the area, Foley said, he tries to get out to various outposts to speak with Marines and let them know their sacrifices are appreciated and that their hard work does not go unnoticed.

“I always thank the troops for what they do,” said Foley, who hails from Philadelphia. “To hear that from a stranger means a lot to these guys.”

Many Marines at remote outposts, such as this one in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, do not get as many chaplain visits as they’d like. Foley said he tries to get out to these troops as much as he can, often delivering care packages to help in raising their spirits.

“Bringing the care packages is a really big deal to these guys,” Chapman said. “Little things like peanut butter, snacks and socks mean so much to them. It gives them insight from home and what they’re fighting for.”

The visits also give him first-hand perspective into how the Marines and sailors live, the chaplain said, and give him a great appreciation for the amenities he has at Camp Leatherneck. Marines in remote outposts sometimes go days without electricity, rarely receive hot meals and sleep on cots nightly.

Foley said he has visited about 18 forward operating bases and combat outposts and plans to visit many more Marines and sailors while he is out here.

“I try to get out as much as I can and see the Marines out there,” he said. “If I can get them to smile and laugh, I’ve done my job and made it easier for the next chaplain who comes to visit them.”

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