News: Service members affirm their faith in Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. Joe Armas
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan -- In an affirmation of faith, five service members stationed here were baptized, Nov. 27, at the Camp Marmal Chapel.
Snow-capped mountains provided the backdrop for a frigid late November morning, as inside the chapel, warmth was garnered by a congregation of worshipers who witnessed the five service members publicly proclaim their belief in a higher power.
At the conclusion of the service, each service member was baptized individually, taking a backward plunge into a tub of water that was placed inside the chapel.
“This [the baptism] is only the beginning of their spiritual journey,” said Maj. Xuan Tran, chaplain, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, originally from Vietnam.
The symbolic gesture of a water baptism is about making a total commitment to Jesus Christ and seeking redemption for one’s sins, added Tran.
Spc. Todd Phinney, who was baptized on this day, said he turned to faith because he needed to fill a void in his life.
“This is something that I felt I needed to do to become complete as a person,” said Phinney, who is a powertrain repairer assigned to Company D, Task Force Lobos, 1st ACB, originally from Sheffield, Pa.
This sentiment was echoed by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Santiago Torres, a tactical operations officer, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ACB, originally from New York, who also baptized on this day.
“I’ve gone through life not knowing if I was spiritually fulfilled,” said Torres. “I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the importance of faith, and I realized that following the path of Jesus Christ helps me to be a better person.”
Both soldiers agreed that the timing of the baptism was ideal.
“I wanted to reconfirm my dedication to God, and this was an opportune time to do so,” said Torres.
“I couldn’t think of a better time or a better way to do this than right now here in Afghanistan,” added Phinney. “This moment has brought me closer to God, and I think it’s going to have a big impact in my life.”
Faith has made a big impact in the life of another soldier who made the decision to be baptized here in Afghanistan.
“Faith serves as a guide that helps me live my life the way I want to,” said 2nd Lt. Stephanie Judd, executive officer, Company C, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st ACB, originally from Cartersville, Ga.
Judd said her decision to be baptized was a personal one, and credits her faith as a key factor that has helped her endure the stresses of a deployment.
“I wouldn’t be as upbeat and positive if it wasn’t for my belief in God,” she said.
As for the ceremony, Tran said it was just one example of how service members deployed in a combat zone, thousands of miles away from the United States are able to exercise the first amendment rights of the Constitution they vowed to defend.
Finally, Tran talked about the importance of religious freedom for troopers here in Afghanistan.
Freedom to worship without persecution is a cornerstone in our democracy, said Tran. It is part of what these soldiers are fighting for.