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Chaplain, Navy’s aviators seek God’s peace between missions


ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, EAST MEDITERRANEAN (BP)–More than 25 men and women sit in the small chapel on board the USS Harry S. Truman early Sunday morning. They’re participating in the weekly Protestant liturgical service given by air wing chaplain Alan Wilmot. They recite the Lord’s Prayer and a confession of faith and sing the Doxology.

For general observers, this might seem to be a typical Sunday service. But look closer and you’ll notice several green flight suits with wings and the word “Gunslingers” on some of the uniforms.

These are some of the nation’s finest — naval aviators — men and women who flew the first air strikes into western Iraq in just the last 48 hours. They come to renew their spiritual energy, for comfort and for encouragement. Many come to pray.

“Is our attack of Iraq a righteous one?” Chaplain Wilmot asks those in attendance. “It’s all about the motivation.”

Motive can be the difference between completing a mission in terms of hate or in terms of defense, Wilmot said. Doing something in hate or anger toward another person isn’t the right reason. But, he counseled, there is healthy anger.

Quoting Ephesians 4:26 and James 1:19-20, Wilmot encouraged the group not to let anger get out of control. Anger, if focused on evil and the defense of others, can be positive. It’s negative if anger happens as a result of not getting something simply because it’s expected.

“Saddam Hussein is a nasty individual, but is it OK to hate him?” Wilmot asked. “Hate poisons us and makes what we do less. It ultimately dwells within us. We need to hate what Hussein does and how he treats his people — not him. The hate will only destroy you.”

Wilmot illustrated his point by comparing the difference between someone who kills someone else on purpose and a police officer who kills someone as a result of defending another life.

“It’s the moral difference,” Wilmot explained. “I thank God that someone’s willing to protect our families while we’re deployed. It’s what we’re doing here for all American families.”

It is such duty that weighs primarily on the aviator’s minds.

One aviator*, a Southern Baptist from Virginia, admits that the task before him is a challenging one.

“The operational things we do, sometimes you wonder if you’re doing the right thing,” the aviator said. “I question that a lot, but I have to open the Bible to what [the apostle] Paul says, and that’s ‘have faith in your leaders.’ The only authorities that are there are who God has put there. That’s what I have to draw back to.”

The aviator said prioritizing is important and he relies greatly on his faith for strength.

“I look at my job as a soldier — that’s what I do,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing, and I’m trusting my leaders and trusting in God.”
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*Name withheld for security purposes.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LITURGICAL WORSHIP and EARS TO HEAR.

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  • Sara Horn