SBC Life Articles

Soldiers Need U.S. Support … And Faith in God

Noting that America's freedom did not come without loss of life, a former Army chaplain who was with the first troops to enter Baghdad last year said people critical of the war in Iraq should take a few cues from history.

"Go back and look at how many Americans lost their lives for freedom in 1776," Huey Bratton said at a July 2 Independence Day service. "It takes loss of life — and sometimes a lot of it — to maintain freedom."

Bratton, who was a chaplain for the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, spoke about his experiences in Iraq at The Church at Ponte Vedra in the coastal town just outside of Jacksonville, Florida.

On behalf of the military still serving in the Middle East, Bratton said their biggest need is to know the American people support them and that the country "stays united to fulfill the cause."

"I think from a soldier's standpoint, they need to know that their country is unified behind them," Bratton said. "When they are over there being shot at every day, they don't need to hear on the news that we're divided on the issue.

"My prayer would be that our soldiers can see us over here united and supportive for what they are doing, [but] I don't think they are seeing that 100 percent," Bratton said.

In "civilian" ministry for eleven years after serving in electronic warfare for the Navy, Bratton said he told his wife one night shortly after the September 11 terror attacks that he wanted to help fulfill the military's need for chaplains by volunteering for service.

After arriving in the Middle East, Bratton said he baptized eighteen before the war ever began.

During his presentation at the Florida church, Bratton showed slides of his experiences. One slide showed Bratton and another chaplain bending over a makeshift baptistry. Bratton chuckled, recalling when the other chaplain, a Methodist, who typically does not support believer's baptism, helped him to immerse one of the soldiers.

Finished for the day, Bratton said he'd already put his uniform back on when another battalion's high-ranking officer, a new believer, asked the chaplain to baptize him. Bratton said the man told him he didn't bring clothes to change into, but that he still wanted to be baptized. Bratton asked him if he wanted to remove his boots.

"No. I figured if they are going to war with me, I might as well baptize them, too," the officer replied, according to Bratton.

"So he got in front of all these soldiers — boots, desert cammos, and all — and we dunked him," Bratton said.

By the time the officer returned to his company headquarters, up to a mile away, Bratton speculated he would be covered with sand and unable to avoid sharing a "tremendous testimony."

One slide depicted a soldier dropped to one knee, holding a rifle with his head lowered in prayer.

"That's the kind of example of Christians over there," Bratton said. "He's on guard, but he's praying. He's poised, he's ready to go at any moment, but he's praying to God."

Bratton said one of the most memorable times he had was of worshiping within the marble walks of Saddam Hussein's VIP headquarters at the Baghdad airport. Embedded reporters, there to "monitor" the situation, joined the military members for prayer and communion.

"We had reporters get serious with God over there," Bratton said, reasoning that, like non-combatant chaplains, "they just had cameras, they didn't have bullets either."

Bratton indicated the most exciting thing he experienced as a chaplain in Iraq was the salvations of American soldiers.

"No doubt," Bratton said. "Every salvation is a miracle."

One that was especially moving involved a gunner of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle who sent word across Baghdad that he needed a minute with Chaplain Huey.

"I think it had hit home how many people he had to kill through the war," Bratton said. "One bullet out of those things can kill a whole car full of four to five people, and he's probably wiped out hundreds of vehicles."

The gunner thought God would judge him. Bratton shared the plan of salvation with him and dug a hole in the ground in order that the soldier could be baptized soon after.

"It was amazing through that process, even through the tragedy of war, God used that to save this boy's life, and he had never walked into a church his whole life."

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan