A couple in our church invited our small group (aka Sunday School class) to a deployment ceremony today — the husband is part of the 441st Explosion Ordnance Disposal Battalion that is leaving for Iraq for a year. I’ve never known anyone going off to war like that, so I was honored to be invited to support them at the ceremony and participate in their send-off.
It felt kinda like being in the locker room before a big football game. The various commanders spoke to the soldiers and their families, each respectively, offering words of encouragement and reassurance and affirmation.
“You’re trained, you know your job.”
“Citizens of Alabama are behind you and understand and respect what you’re doing on your mission.”
“You are ready to do your mission.”
“Your mission will frustrate you and challenge you …. Your job is to protect your fellow guardsmen … and to stay to the left of the boom.”
“To families, fear not, they’re in good hands. They’re ready, they’re going to do a good job, they’re going to be back within a year.”
As the soldiers marched in I looked at their faces — some were so young, some my age, some my parents’ age, dads, moms, sons, daughters, and at least one who looked like someone’s nana or memaw. The commanders thanked the soldiers and their families for their sacrifices for the next 12 months, as well as their sacrifices of the last 12 months as their soldier has prepared for deployment.
A young, black, female soldier belted out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and with chillbumps on my arms and tears welling up, I closed my eyes and just took it in — the soldiers, the war, my freedoms, their sacrifice, the danger, the sadness of leaving home, my gratitude.
The chaplain prayed, “Father, still us for the journey ahead” and read the Explosion Ordnance Disposal prayer
Lord of power and might,
whose mercy is everlasting,
guard and guide those who
place their lives in the balance
to ensure the safety of those nearby.
Look with favor upon those with
the prowess and skill to disarm
explosive devices, render them safe,
and remove from others the threat of harm.
Bless those who have been set apart
by this hazardous duty, and give support to
their families and loved ones
who wait through each tense call.
Receive into eternal rest those
who have given their lives
and bring healing to those who mourn.
Grant that in the EOD Family
there may be unity of spirit
for the well being of all.
To your glory with grateful hearts
we thank you loving God.
God speed, Rob, and the rest of the 441st. Thank you, and we look forward to welcoming you home soon!