Afghanistan itself is hot and dusty. The semi-open sewerage of Kandahar gives the air a perpetually putrid odor. My contacts with Afghans were pleasant, cordial and enlightening. My experiences with soldiers involved comradeship that I have never found elsewhere. While we were never in grave danger, potential for death or injury was never far from mind.
Anthony Stephens describes, in almost poetic terms, his four months spent deployed as an Army National Guard Chaplain in Afghanistan. Surely his experience writing and giving sermons as the pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Croton-on-Hudson helps.
When Stephens returned to his parish in July, his congregation, as well as community, expressed interest in hearing more about his experiences in this unimaginable environment. He will be doing just that at a public talk on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church.
Stephens gave Patch a vivid taste of points he will flesh out more fully on Sunday. He went to Afghanistan to relieve the current chaplain, who needed to return to the States, in the 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion. The battalion was assigned to “construct and maintain an enormous communications network across the Afghanistan theater,” Stephens said.
A chaplain is meant to protects soldiers’ Constitutional right to freedom to exercise their religion. On a more practical level, said Stephens, he was there to provide “help, comfort, and counsel.”
“I found that as the soldiers were getting set to go home the more the brushed-aside issues of relationship struggles, financial problems and future insecurity resurfaced,” Stephens said. “As a pastor, licensed mental health counselor and attorney, all of my civilian trades were handy to help the soldiers, at least in some small fashion.”
He said he is proud to have served with the 101st ESB, under the “particularly fine command of Col. Greg Dreisbach and Command Sgt. Mjr. Dan Bien,” and he’s eager to share more with the community.
There is no cost for attendance, however a freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the Afghan boys school in Kandahar which Stephens’ battalion supported as soldiers volunteered their services to bring literacy and fun to young Afghan boys.
Our Saviour Lutheran Church, 56 Cleveland Drive, Croton on Hudson, (914) 271 4632, www.oursaviourcroton.org