By Navy Chaplain (retired) Richard Pusateri
I was honored to serve as chaplain for Marine Corps in Southwest Asia from 2005 to 2009.
As chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, I served as a member of the Commanding General’s executive staff for the religious support of the 35,000-40,000 Marines and attached Sailors, soldiers and airmen deployed in the combat zone.
As senior supervisory chaplain, I coordinated the ministry of 150 chaplains and chaplain assistants who ministered to those combat troops.
While I spent most of the time in Iraq, I also served in the Horn of Africa, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Afghanistan, Jordan and Egypt.
Throughout my tour of duty, I was continually impressed to see the reach of Strength for Service to God and Country in combat theater.
Books found everywhere
As the senior Marine General’s chaplain I visited some of the most remote outposts and security stations in Iraq. I found copies of the devotional book while waiting for helicopters and convoys in tents, and small huts. I saw the historic books in tiny chow halls, rec rooms, medical-aid stations and on the tables in company command posts.
As I met with our ministry teams traveling out to their units, I saw many chaplain assistants adding the pocket-size books to their backpacks to bring to the combat troops.
As I wandered around troops waiting to go “outside the wire,” I often saw Marines and soldiers huddled in corners reading Strength for Service.
Sometimes I’d strike up a conversation with the person by mentioning Strength for Service was provided by my United Methodist Church.
Almost always the troop expressed thanks when he or she discovered the devotions came from my church. But that wasn’t the important part. Strength for Service contributed by speaking meaningfully of God’s love and guidance—even in the harshest moments of combat. It offered personal spiritual support to the troops in critical moments and places that other outreach rarely reached.