CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – There are three elements that make for a strong, well-balanced Soldier – physical fitness, mental fitness and spiritual fitness; as the sun slowly crept from the calm eastern Baghdad horizon, it was spiritual fitness that was in everyone’s hearts and minds.
Members of the 4th Infantry Division and Multi-National Division – Baghdad celebrated Easter sunrise with religious services in front of the division’s headquarters building in Camp Liberty March 23.
Easter in Iraq is something few get to experience, and as the services began, Soldiers took advantage of the spiritual opportunity to worship in Baghdad this Easter Sunday.
“This is absolutely historic, and it very much moves me,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Carter, a native of Monroeville, Ala., who serves as the 4th Inf. Div. and MND-B chaplain. “I’m deeply appreciative to have the honor and the privilege to be here in Baghdad and bring a message of hope to the Soldiers of MND-B.”
Just as Soldiers fight to bring peace, stability and freedom to the Iraqi people, the chaplains of MND-B find it to be their mission to provide a place for Soldiers to worship freely.
“We are here to help secure the nation of Iraq and protect the population, but as chaplains, we come to provide religious support for our Soldiers, Carter said. “We do that because we want to provide for the free exercise of religion, which we, as a nation, uphold to.”
Although early, Carter explained the significance of holding the services at sunrise.
“It’s important because it represents, in the Christian faith, the resurrection of our Lord,” Carter said. “Our Lord is rising from the grave and the sun is rising – it’s coming up. The symbolism of being here early in the morning, seeing the sunrise, we think about how important that is, in our faith, that the Lord has risen.”
Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., who serves as the commanding general for the 4th Inf. Div. and MND-B, expressed the importance of services like this for Soldiers to build on their spiritual fitness.
“As we prepared to deploy, I told my Soldiers that despite what we do with all of our training,” said Hammond, “the three most important elements to their life here in combat would be spiritual, mental and physical fitness. I expect that and each one of them should be an equal investment each and every day. I start and end each day working on my spiritual fitness.”
Although this Easter Sunday was not the more traditional holiday as most Soldiers are used to, Hammond said he doesn’t think he would have it any other way.
“I think all of our Soldier would much rather be at home for a typical Easter service with nice clothes, hats and a wonderful Easter brunch,” Hammond said. “I don’t think I want that this year. I think I want what we have – our little 4th Infantry Division Army Family, in the holy land, so to speak.”
By Sgt. Mark Matthews