My name is Specialist Charles Seelaus and My Army Reserve unit, the 2/228th
Aviation Regiment is currently in Iraq. This was made possible when the
3rd Infantry Division, using lighting speed, overran the airfield
located here in Central Iraq. As a direct result of their brave actions,
my unit was now able to operate deep out of Iraqi Territory. As we set
up our operations in the months of June and July, I began to realize
that some of the finest and bravest men and women America had to offer
were serving right beside me.
Then The War Began. Our Unit was Mobilized for war.
Why was I leaving all this behind? I thought about this and was reminded of my
son who had just earned his Tenderfoot in Boy Scouts. He has a dream of
being an Eagle Scout someday. Something his father is. He and I both
know the Ten Commandments by heart but we also know the Boy Scout Oath.
The Oath begins with, "On my Honor, I will do my Best, to do my Duty to
God and my Country." To God and My Country. Was I here for me, was it
for my Family, was it my duty to God and Country? Our Advance team
arrived in June, the rest were here in Iraq shortly after. The first
night I arrived I was greeted by a brilliant beautiful sunset. The sky
was dancing with colors. The night gave me the most beautiful array of
stars I have seen in such a long time. That same night our Camp was
attacked by mortar fire and soldiers were injured. One of countless
mortar attacks to follow.
Prayers took on a whole new meaning in War. My commander told me that no one
prays more than the soldier who is targeted for death. They are thrust
into a situation where their lives may at any moment be extinguished.
And he was correct. We do say a lot of prayers. Something happens on the
inside when soldiers see and hear of their comrades being sent home in
body bags. Life is so precious and so fragile.
Our Camp continued to developed. We would not see those attacking us each day and night but we were reminded by the explosions all around us.
About a mile from our camp was the mighty Tigris river. So named because that is what she would become once the rains fell, a ferocious tiger. Her banks would over flow and flood the lands around us. Our camp was rich in the silt and mud carried by these floods. This was a very fertile land. The Tigris was also one of the two rivers that flowed through the biblical Garden of Eden. Her sister was many miles away. She was the Euphrates.
As our camp began to take form, so did my heart. As we continued to work hard,
I began to pray hard. I thought about everything that I took for granted
and I could still hear my wife saying to me, "War changes people". She
was correct, but more importantly, Our God is behind change. As the days
and nights ran into each other, I longed for my family, For the Land I
Love, For Home. Then one evening as the beautiful sun was setting, I
thought about being Baptized here. We were in Holy lands. This was a
place I will probably not get a chance to see again. Was It possible?
For me it was questionable, for God there was nothing that was not
possible. I prayed asking for this blessing but my mind thought How?
Inside and Outside our fences soldiers were dying. Outside our fences
the enemy was Firing mortars, hiding improvised explosive devices and
firing rocket propelled grenades and weapons at us. By day our soldiers
would rebuild schools, but by night the explosions could be heard.
I was so excited that night that I raced back to my tent where my heart was
flying. I opened my locker and there saw my military uniforms hanging.
They hung, one after another, 4 sets of desert camouflaged uniforms. I
looked at all the uniforms and saw the one I held way in the back. It
was brand new, never used, and covered in plastic to protect it from the
dust. Should I use this for my Baptism in Babylon. This Baptism, should
it happen, was a chance in a life time. It certainly warranted a new
uniform. Not many folks get the opportunity to be Baptized in Babylon.
I would not wear that uniform yet. That story was still waiting for an ending.
As the Saturday Morning arrived I awoke early. I had very few details about the trip but I was ready. Dressed in Full Battle Rattle I greeted my Chaplain. We drove to the helicopters in silence. We arrived at the Black-Hawk unit and I dropped him off. He said "Wait here Seelaus and I will check to see if there is room on this flight for you." I prayed. He returned a few minutes later and the answer was yes, there was room. We would be flying to Babylon and flying with many of the base chaplains. This was a tour of the ancient city of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezar's palace.
While we waited to board the helicopters that morning, I met our Brigade
Commander For the first Time. He would be flying us to Babylon. The
Colonel had such a air of confidence about him that I instinctively felt
safe with him. It's, the quality every great leader has. Instilling
Time did fly so quickly and the City of Babylon appeared to us. To one side I saw
a mound of earth and bricks. Was that the tower of Babel? Then the
Palaces of Babylon appeared. It was breath taking. There before me were
two palaces, one old and ancient another new and modern. We had arrived
in Babylon. Ancient city of the Bible. Before us were King Nebuchadnezar's palace and Sadaam Hussien's former Palace which was
overlooking the ancient city.
As the tour guide began to take us around the walls of Babylon. The chaplain
and I approached Him. "Chaplain Miller" I asked, "Will you please
include me in your Baptism today?" It seemed my life was hanging on what
he would say. But for a moment he did not speak a word. His eyes and
smile told me what no words could ever say, It felt as if God was
saying, welcome home my lost son. Then his words came" Of course!" "Of
course!", I repeated. "Of course!"
The next few hours went quickly, I was enthralled by the history our guide gave
us as we toured the Palace of King Nebuchadnezar. Everything here was
new to me. The words from the Old Testament often spoke of this town and
place and of her peoples, I had read it many times. But for the first
time I was placing the words with the place. Here is where so much
history happened. I was touching seeing and experiencing where once
before I was only reading. As we walked down ancient roads, along
fortress walls and through courtyards and kingly rooms I listen intently
to our guide speak. Here is where Daniel was thrown in the lions den she
would say and here is where King Nebuchadnezar defended his palace and
here is where Alexander the Great was. As we walked my camera constantly
clicked. I kept a careful count though. I must save some for the moment
of My Baptism.
We thanked our tour guide and walked to an open market. There were merchants selling their wears and as we walked through, there was variety everywhere. I filled my pockets with gifts for my family but the greatest gift was from God, a gift He gave to me. A new heart.
I was ushered out as the group had finished and now was waiting for the group
to all get together. It was time. ALL of us walked from the Bazaar to a
dirt path that the Chaplain had seen from the air. This led to the
water. We started walking. I felt a tremendous feeling as we walked
because I was not alone. Though I had only just meet most of these
people, it was as if we were family.
Chaplain Robert A. Miller began to walk in the waters and we watched. He instructed us to watch him and when he had gone out far enough and was ready, he would call us out to him. He was ready and he waved us on. We began to walk and I was first to reach the Chaplain. As I walked a fear of mine was destroyed. Baby fish were swimming all around. Every step I took, I would watch them scatter. I was happy to see life in these waters. The echoes of unclean water faded from my mind.
I was now in the water of the Euphrates river. The Holy waters. As we reached the minister, I was never more confident in my life. Then in a way I had not heard before, the minister spoke to all the witnesses on shore. The Lord was using this man and I watched and listened to him. God indeed was great. I was asked to kneel and it began. The minister was at once speaking to me, speaking to the witnesses, speaking to himself and speaking to God.
There was no speech writer in history that could have spoken more eloquently or more courageously. God had given me the best, no doubt in my mind. I will never forget. This was God at work and as the words rained upon me like flakes of gold, it came time for me to speak. In all the confidence that a soldier could muster I proclaimed "Before God, I DO!"
I was Baptized. Baptized in Babylon, Baptized in the Holy Euphrates river. I stood up a different man, it was my prayer to be a humble and faithful servant. I watched the next Baptism. Upon his Baptism we all shook hands and proceeded to the shore. We were Greeted by friendly faces, smiles and handshakes. Soldiers who were serving their country, who served God. As we arrived on shore, I thought, God did it!! I wondered about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Had they too been Baptized in the Holy Euphrates River. As we walked backed to the helicopter, Chaplain Miller gave me a set of Dog tags. One he said to wear, the other to give to another. It read " I will be strong and courageous, I will not be terrified, or discouraged, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go. Joshua 1:9 (I carry it around my neck). Indeed, I gave the other away.
As we walked back to the Black Hawk, Chaplain Miller told me that within 10 minutes in the helicopter, my clothes would be completely dry. He was right. We boarded the Black-Hawks and lifted up. As Colonel Palumbo left he gave a fly over, of where we were baptized giving us all a birds eye view. That's when I saw the waters. Where we were baptized there was a perfect triangle in the water. From the point where we walked from shore to the chaplain, and then, with the chaplain back to shore. I saw what the chaplain had done when he asked our group to walk a little further up from where we entered these waters. His directions created a perfect triangle in the water. One that now could be viewed on High!!! Where we had walked was clearly seen from above. It could be seen from the heavens too.
I write this as testimony to our great God. Even as I write this, I can hear mortars close by us. But I also hear this voice, "With God as my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
The three pictures attached show before, during and after. I hope this account will show that God is always at work. War is Hell but God blesses us with peace in the midst of it.
Whether at home or thousands of miles away, whether in peace or in war. Our Lord God is One, our Lord God is Sovereign, Our God is with us. I turn to him my redeemer.
This story has only begun, I still have a new uniform waiting for me to wear. I will wear it in celebration.
Specialist Charles Seelaus
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