Dear members and friends at New Joy,
I hope all is well back at New Joy! I loved seeing the pictures of the playground build, and I can imagine all the work underway as you prepare for the Easter Egg Hunt and Pancake Breakfast.
Here at North Fort Hood we're packing up and getting ready to go overseas. Last week we completed our CTE (Culminating Training Exercise) which included simulated mortar attacks on our location, multiple convoys and refueling operations, and several down aircraft recovery missions, among other scenarios. The evaluating team threw scenarios at the Religious Support Team to observe our ability to respond to a religious accommodation request, counsel Soldiers at risk of harming themselves or others, and coordinate and lead a memorial ceremony. CPL Ray and I also exercised our "battlefield circulation" (ie., movement through the area of operations) flying to visit Soldiers temporarily positioned at Fort Sill, OK. It was a first time ever flying in a Blackhawk helicopter, and it was a wonderful experience (no motion sickness!). Overall it was a busy nine days, but a great way to wrap up the bulk of our training.
At this point we are wrapping up our time here at Fort Hood - finishing some online training, packing up shipping containers, and sending our advance teams overseas to prepare the way for the main body of Soldiers. I'll be taking a physical fitness test next week, and for the first time in years I'm not too nervous about it. Over the past two months I've dedicated myself to physical training as part of my overall fitness and Army training. I won't return home looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I certainly will be fitter than I have been in years. 😉
We received your cards in the mail last week - thank you so much! As I was leaving on my pass to see my family in Chicago, CPL Ray (my Religious Affairs Specialist) shared many of your cards with the Soldiers who were heading overseas. They were really appreciative. Your love and your support are felt not just by me but by the more than 400 Soldiers who make up my battalion.
I continue to covet your prayers for me and for my Soldiers. Morale is high, though with our pending movement overseas many of us are experiencing increased stress. Soldiers are both excited to go overseas but also anxious about leaving family behind - a reality we've been aware of for months, but which we're now living in a much more real sense as the calendar keeps marching on.
I dearly miss gathering with you "at the foot of the cross and the opening to the empty grave, to give God our praise and to receive God's many blessings." I am comforted knowing that in my absence you are continuing - and expanding! - the ministry we share, and I am gratified by your blessings to me to extend New Joy's ministry with Soldiers preparing to go overseas.
Thank you so much. Blessings to you!