The wounding of U.S. Army Chaplain Barron K. Wester in Iraq is a reminder that there are no “noncombatants” in either physical warfare, or spiritual warfare for that matter.
His account of his wounding says it all:
Our unit has been in the process of setting up new forward outposts in the heart of Baghdad. In this new military endeavour, we have already taken casualties. We knew this is a dangerous but important mission. In this latest crisis, my chaplain’s assistant and I accompanied our battalion commander to the scene of a forward unit which had been hit, taking several causalities. . The Army Chaplaincy Corps motto is, Nurture the Living, Care for the Wounded and Honour the Dead. I did precisely that. I knelt close to one of our dead soldiers; praying for his family and all his comrades who were observing the scene. I knew his death would deeply cut to the heart and soul of those back home who loved him. He was a Catholic soldier; but that made no difference. He was my brother; and I was his chaplain. I moved among the other soldiers, praying with them; laying hands on the wounded, asking for God’s mercy and healing. Suddenly, I felt the bullet that went through my arm, exiting and wounding another soldier sitting near me. My chaplain’s assistant, to whom I will always be indebted, in the process of taking care of his chaplain, pushed me under the vehicle and literally laid near me so that I would be protected from further sniper fire. He was willing to take the bullets on my behalf! A short time later, I was evacuated to a Field Hospital and then transported to Germany. My battalion and brigade commanders came by with the comforting words, Chaplain, we need you; get well quickly; you were doing exactly what a chaplain is supposed to be doing.
Our prayers are with Chaplain Wester and his family.