By Col. (Chaplain) Jess Abbott, 416th Theater Engineer Command, Chaplain
DARIEN, Ill. - What is Easter like for our deployed Service Members? I've been reminiscing about my Easter in 2011 at Joint Base Balad (JBB), Iraq.
Holidays are especially meaningful for deployed service members because these are times for assembling with family; and of course they can't. Commanders are very diligent about promoting holiday activities such as unit parties. The folks from Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), USO and Red Cross assure there are special festivities and lots of phone connectivity and internet access. All of these programs make things better for the troops, but they can't replace "doing Easter with family."
Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants add to holiday activities by providing a variety of Easter services from sunrise into the evening. Worship services allow people to experience something similar to what they would back home.
Easter is an especially joyous time, when Christians sing the Easter songs and hymns with gusto. One of my fondest memories was the last Easter sunrise service at JBB. Weeks before Easter, all the Christian Army and Air Force Chaplains met to plan one big, all inclusive, sunrise service at the base stadium.
The Gospel Choir led singing with both snappy new songs and the old tried and true hymns. They enlisted me, as one of the liturgical Protestant chaplains, to assist with the old hymns. The Base Air Force Chaplain delivered an exciting Easter sermon. Overall, the mood was indeed one of celebration and joy.
Despite separation from families, Christians that usually attended their own faith group chapels, came together for that special day of Easter. It was a reminder that people of common faith are family to each other, and that when we worship, we join with the praise and prayer of our families, no matter how far away they may be.
So, keep all our deployed Service Members in prayer this Easter. I know they are praying for us.