ON BOARD THE USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, EAST MEDITERANNEAN (BP)–A first person account.
Wednesday, 3/19, 5 p.m.
I used to love flying when I was younger. I always wanted to sit by the window so I could look down and see the tiny houses and cars. I would wonder about the people who lived in those houses — what kind of lives did they lead, what did they like to do for fun?
Since Sept. 11 and now that I’m a mom, I don’t like flying so much. I worry about the unknown risks and the desire to be responsible and there for my little boy.
But here I am on a plane — my final destination, the Persian Gulf. There on board the USS Harry S. Truman, I’m going to see an actual floating city where men and women work and live. Maybe I’ll even find out what they like to do for fun.
More importantly, I want to find out why they do what they do and what keeps them going. What is God doing in the lives of people who live on an aircraft carrier? What can I learn from their faith?
Am I worried about the distance I’m going to be away from home? Sure. Am I concerned about the risk I might be taking as a wife and a mom traveling to a war zone? Definitely.
But then I remember the men and women who are also a long way from their homes and their families and I can imagine how much they miss holding their loved ones and kissing their children. I agree with the statement I’ve heard more than one soldier say recently: “Let’s get the job done so we can go home.”
Ten days is nothing compared to the unknown length of time the military are going to be away.
A lot of people when learning about this trip have commented to me about what an opportunity this must be for me.
This is more than just an assignment to list on a resume. There are stories of Christians which aren’t being told. Who would have ever thought that a group of Navy personnel would take time out on Saturdays to sit for an “Experiencing God” class? Or participate in one of 12 Bible studies on board ship through the week.
These men and women, particularly at this time in the life of our nation and world, know the risks that their service to their country entails. Their belief in God can’t be a surface thing — too much is at stake.
These are the kind of stories I want to cover. This is more than just for my job, this is more than just a special assignment.
As the wife of a Navy reservist who may be activated very soon, I can relate and understand the anxiety of other wives who are praying for the return of their husbands. I can understand the worry that parents are dealing with as they wonder what’s happening with children who are now deployed. I feel so passionate about this assignment — I see this as one small thing I can do, my own ministry to those wives, those families who are praying and wondering how God is watching over their loved ones.
Earlier today, as I was scrambling to insure that my passport would be in my hands before my flight left, I talked to a man named Ken at the airport post office. I mentioned where I was going and what I was doing with my passport. He said, “Say hello to my daughter — she’s over there in Kuwait somewhere.”
The world becomes such a small place when war is involved. I pray that what we do in the days ahead will glorify God and encourage where we need encouraging.
Philippians 2:7 — “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal” (HCSB)
Thursday, 3/20, 4:40 p.m.
We’ve been flying now for almost 15 hours with a brief layover in Detroit and Amsterdam. The hardest leg of the journey was completed on the flight across the Atlantic. We left at 8 p.m. Wednesday night and arrived in the Netherlands a little before noon on Thursday, 3 a.m. our time in America. Though I did manage to get a couple of hours here and there, sleep was fitful at best.
Once we complete the flight leg we’re on right now, we’ll pick up our luggage, which hopefully will have arrived, grab a taxi and make our way to the hotel. We still have to touch base with our ship’s contact in order to make sure everything is squared away for our rendezvous with a military transport tomorrow. I am ready for the hotel. I definitely need a shower and a change of clothes. I haven’t eaten much since we left Nashville — I guess it’s a combination of nerves and excitement but I haven’t had much of an appetite anyway.
Everywhere we walked through the airport, people sat quietly watching reports on CNN of the latest news for Iraq. Our forces are in place. The war has begun.
It was interesting to read a British newspaper I picked up this morning. One of the stories that stood out to me the most: an English mother worried about the safe return of her 18-year-old son currently stationed in Kuwait helping his British unit assist American forces.
Since leaving America, it’s amazing and in a way refreshing to see so many cultures and hear so many languages. On our second leg, I watched a Muslim couple, the woman donned in the traditional head covering, trying desperately to soothe their crying baby. The woman walked up and down the aisles, rocking the baby, and the father took turns as well. As the early morning sun peeked in through the plane windows, I woke to loud singing. It was the father trying to calm his little baby girl.
While waiting to board for the final flight in our journey to the Gulf, I watched an English couple with two little boys patiently answering their 4-year-old’s questions. I saw a Dutch family with their young children happily skipping and singing in their native language as they rode up the escalator to their gate.
No matter where you are in the world, children will be children and parents all have the same hopes and dreams for their offspring. I wonder about the Iraqi parents tonight worried for the safety of their children, as well as the parents of U.S. soldiers, now so dangerously far from home. I pray the mission of this war will be successful and quick and that our troops will stay safe.
1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (HCSB).
Sunday, March 23, noon
Today is our second full day on the ship. We are waiting in the ship’s TV studio for an escort to take us to the flight deck for some photo opportunities — launches for training exercises.
The sea is a little fiercer today and perhaps it’s a combination of lack of sleep (less than four hours a night so far) and raw nerves, but the rolling of the ship this morning is starting to get to me. CNN and images of what continues to happen for good and for bad is consistently piped into whatever compartment we’re in. It’s a very surreal feeling to be on board this ship. In one way, we’re not directly involved with what we’re seeing in the news – the networks are covering mostly land-based troops. In another way, however, we most certainly are.
As Americans, there are definitely pieces of us that hurt as we hear reports of American soldiers killed. Reports of Americans protesting the war — the most on record and largest in New York — really bothers me. Our troops need all the support they can get in these first days of the war.
I talked with a Southern Baptist aviator this morning, following an early morning liturgical service offered on the ship. He talked about how strong his faith in God makes him and the moral questions he wrestles with as he carries out his job. He says the only way he can do what he does is by trusting the authority that has been placed over him by God. He was extremely happy that Bush is a president who shows his faith.
The most moving moment for me this morning had to be in the bow of the ship during the contemporary worship service. Watching these men and women, knowing the various responsibilities and functions they perform and seeing some raise their hands and close their eyes in worship reinforced to me that God is God on land or on sea. Regardless, when his people gather, his name is praised.
“For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 6:13-14).
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: ON BOARD and SARA HORN.