Thursday, October 11, 2007

More travels in "West of Euphrates"

Thursday, October 11, 2007
8:47:00 AM EDT
More travels in West of Euphrates
Top: We gathered around the Lord on the evening of 11 October at COP MHC.
Bottom:Over 30 of America's greatest after Mass at COP 1. So many faithful I couldn't get them all in this shot; we should have this problem all the time. "See Ma? I did go to Mass!"

Sunday night flew to Hit forward operating base (FOB). Monday morning offered Mass at the FOB for the CO and about ten Marines then covoyed to a COP (combat outpost) and offered Mass again soon after arriving for about 5 Marines. We were preapring to depart on our morning convoy Monday when the FOB got a call about an unexploded artillery round discovered in a nearby town by some local Iraqis. We got a last minute change in our mission. We escorted the explosive ordnance disposal techs to the town, where they picked up the round. Then we travelled back out of the town to open desert where the EOD team exploded the round: BOOM. To say the least...

While we were stopped in the town I got a good close up view of Iraqi life from my HMMWV window. A butcher was cleaning the carcass of a sheep hanging by a large hook in front of his shop. He hung a wet cloth over the meat to keep the flies off. A couple of other sheep were tethered to the porch waiting their turn for the knife. Kids were playing in the street, running back and forth to get a good look at the Marines and their vehicles, fascinated by the close-up view of war machines that most other boys can only see in pictures. Other men were seated, relaxing in front of shops watching the show, while others strolled around on their errands, some in the traditional dishdash and others in western garb.

On Tuesday convoyed four times, offering Mass at a couple of places. I was pumped when I had over 30 Marines at Mass at COP 1. Made it all worth it. Can't imagine how much their parents and families love them, but know it's lots. I challenged them to accept the Faith for themselves, explaining that it is not enough to be Catholic simply because their parents are Catholic. I also invited them to challenge the Faith, to overcome their fear of asking questions because Christ is the Truth and there is no problem or question He cannot handle.

In the evening I went along on a convoy mission into town to drop off some local Iraqi men. The CO wanted to get them back home before dark so they could take care of their families. When my HMMWV stopped I took a picture of the young boys who were swarming our vehicle, giving the thumbs-up sign and hoping the Marines would toss them candy. I visited Marines located at the COP located inside the town with views of a bridge over the Euphrates and a blue-domed Mosque. Some of the Marines ordered dinner cooked by the locals: roasted whole chicken and sausages with roasted vegetables all served up together in a piece of flat bread. Not so very different from home food.

Wednesday I arrived at Cop MHC, built to house Iraqi families of military posted at Al Asad air base. Met with a Marine who wants to become Catholic to begin his instruction and offered Mass in the evening for about 11 Marines and Sailors. Later I relaxed with 5 Marines at a game of dominoes and some laughter. Guess who won?
Another convoy tomorrow.

- Fr Cusick in Babylon

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