April 8, 2008?Christian Reformed Church Army chaplain Rev. Gordon Terpstra says the horrible sound of rocket and mortar fire fills the air nearly every day in the Green Zone in Baghdad.
But even worse, he
says, are the screams and moans from the soldiers and civilians who have been injured by the enemy missiles.
The bombings, which began in earnest on Easter, are part of the assaults undertaken by militia groups linked to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The worst day so far was Sunday, April 6, when rockets crashed into the Green Zone, killing two soldiers, one of them Terpstra
,??s friend, and injuring 18 others.The fortified Green Zone is home to the United States military command in Iraq.
,??The explosion almost knocked me out of my chair.It was a direct hit on our gym,,??Terpstra wrote Rev. Herm Keizier, director of Chaplaincy Services for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. ,??I rushed to the hospital, and the hallways were already filled with litters.
On the other hand, Terpstra
finds that the connections and friendships he
has made over the last months are paying off as the soldiers and officers search him out for prayer and consolation. ,??I am in a paradox,,?? he
writes Keizer. ,??On April 24, I come home, and nothing could keep me here.At the same time, I feel very needed right now.,??
Before Sunday, one of the worst days was March 26 when bombing started a little after 5 a.m.., waking him with its fury. ,??I hit the floor of my hootch, put on my helmet, and draped my body armor over me.Then a devilish crack told me it was really close,,?? writes Terpstra
After dressing, he
went out to find that one rocket had blasted through the roof of a nearby trailer in which an enlisted soldier and civilian contractor lived.They had already been taken to the hospital.Inside the trailer, Terpstra
,??saw combat blood, and it was all over the room inside, splattered against the walls and the door, covering the floor, and going down the steps to the concrete sidewalk.,??He
rushed to the hospital, where he
prayed for both the wounded men and their friends.
Sunday, says Terpstra
, was one of the worst days of his
life.At the hospital, he
had to identify the body of his
friend, who had been in church just a few hours before. ,??I teased him before the service began.He
had laughed out loud, and now as I stared at his
face I remembered that laugh.I told the captain the name and she
wrote it down,,?? says Terpstra
At the hospital, the chaplain moved up and down the crowded hallways, praying over the wounded and consoling military officers who sobbed and shook in his
was on hand when Blackhawk helicopters arrived for in what is known as the ,??Angel Flight.,??
increasingly dreams of the evergreen trees, abundant water, the mountains and the farmlands of home.He
looks forward to returning.Meanwhile, as the bombs fall on the Green Zone, he
continues to do his
job, bringing God and his
faith to bear on a war that he
knows will continue once he
,??Despite our humanness and sinfulness, we military chaplains do become symbols of the presence of God to these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in times like this,,?? he