Keeping spiritually fit in a combat zone
July 30, 2011
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq " As 1st Lt. Jeremy Dillard prepared to jump into Iraq as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he carried only one personal item with him: his Bible.
Now, years later, he strives to explain to Soldiers the importance of staying spiritually fit while deployed.
Dillard, a former paratrooper and now the assistant intelligence officer for 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, “Red Dragons,” 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, served as the guest speaker for spiritual fitness training at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, July 19.
Dillard spoke about his previous combat deployments, and how staying spiritually fit helped keep him safe and mentally ready.
During his first deployment to Iraq, Dillard met regular contact with enemy forces and went nearly three months before being able to change clothes.
“I only had the Bible that my mother gave me,” said the Kansas City, Kan., native.
Dillard said it was his Bible, and his fellow Soldiers beside him, that helped him stay strong through his deployment.
“It was that spiritual aspect and being able to talk to and rely on one another that got us through,” Dillard said of his unit.
Spiritual strength really helps you get through those difficult times, he continued.
“There are going to be times when you get homesick, when you have a bad day and can’t go back to the ones you love or even talk to them,” explained Dillard. “Those are the times that you have to rely on your spiritual strength, and the strength of those around you to make it through.”
For Dillard, spiritual fitness training like this is a great opportunity to strengthen the mental and emotional aspects of his life.
“You can look around here and realize that you are not alone,” he said.
This is an opportunity to gather with other spiritual people and support each other, he continued. “We must be able to turn to each other in times of difficulty.”
The class is a chance to get together, share a meal, offer up prayers, and listen to the guest speaker, said Chaplain (Capt.) Darrell Burriss of Cincinnati, chaplain for 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt.
Burriss explained that the goal of the classes is to give Soldiers of various backgrounds and faiths a common forum to express themselves and learn from one another.
Everyone has different experiences and strengths, and everybody can contribute to building up one another, Burriss said. Additionally, these classes are a nice break from the stress of deployment, he added.
“What I want to show Soldiers is that it’s not just the chaplain; anyone can rely on spirituality to sustain them,” added Burriss.
The “Red Dragon” unit ministry team regularly holds spiritual fitness training and encourages all Soldiers to work on building their spiritual fitness to help sustain them through difficult times during deployment.