"Ready First, Sir," greets a soldier with a salute as Chaplain (Major) Leo Moras approaches to meet him outside the tent chapel. Returning the salute with a big broad smile Chaplain Moras, a member of 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas replies, "Iron Soldiers," his unit's motto.
Father Leo Moras is the Train Advise Assist Command-East (TAAC-E) Chaplain deployed alongside 1st Brigade troops is on a nine month deployment to Afghanistan. He is one the of active duty priests endorsed by The Archdiocese for the Military Services who stays busy with the battle field circulations (BFC) to forward bases to hear confession, celebrate the Eucharist and take care of the spiritual and religious needs of the soldiers.
Chaplain (Major) Moras, oldest of six children born to devout catholic parents in Bantwal, India. From childhood he expressed a desire to serve others, and the priesthood seemed fit due to his strong religious upbringing. After graduating high school at the age of 15, he joined the seminary. After 9 years of spiritual training Moras was ordained on April 18, 1989 as a priest of the Diocese of Ajmer, India.
In June 1998, after working for 9 years as a high school principal and parish priest in Jodhpur and Jaipur, India, he decided to take a much needed vacation to the United States. As destiny and God's plan would have it, the vacation turned into sacramental work for Moras. He served the congregation of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Snyder, Texas for the next 5 years. This church was part of the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas.
The 9/11 tragedy altered and changed the lives of many. A feeling of patriotism and love of country swept the nation. Father Leo, decided to join the U.S. Army as a chaplain and soldier to serve, "God and Country." "In the parish you deal with only catholic parishioners, whereas in the Army you perform and provide religious support to people of all faiths," said Moras, "the environment is pluralistic." He is on his third deployment to a combat zone in Afghanistan. Prior deployments include Iraq in 2005-2006 during the constitutional referendum and democratic elections, then in 2007-2008 during the "Surge."
Chaplain Moras is 52 years of age and has completed 28 years as a priest and 13 years as a U.S. Army Chaplain. When he was asked how he feels hauling that heavy rucksack and body armor as he visits the soldiers at outposts to give Catholic Mass, he replies, "Outstanding, it gives me tremendous joy to carry Jesus in my ruck and on my back in the form of Sacraments," said Moras. "All burdens become light when Jesus is with you. I would not trade Jesus for anything else in life."
When further questioned, "What do you prefer, deployment or garrison religious support ministry?" Moras replied, "Definitely deployment. I love deployments, that's where you are needed most. As a chaplain that is where you as a shepherd smell like your sheep, the soldiers. Also, during deployments you get an opportunity to work in joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational (JIIM) operational environment which helps build Interoperability and forge friendships with troops from other nations."
When asked "What is your plan?" Moras' reply was, "God knows best. He has never let me down and I believe HE never will. I sustain my spiritual life with simple and humble prayers just like my parents did. And I ask the same from other people, to pray, "One Hail Mary" for me, and that has made all the difference in my life."