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    Baptism by Antarctic Water

    Story by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi

    As a scuba diver in the U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 1st Class Andres Murillo is no stranger to water. His last dive took him below several feet of ice off the coast of Antarctica.

    Yet while deployed to the southernmost continent, Murillo also took another type of dive, one that found him without his usual scuba equipment. Murillo was baptized.

    The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10) is the only operational heavy icebreaker in U.S. military service. Each year, the crew breaks through miles of ice in order for fuel tankers and supply ships to deliver critical supplies to U.S. bases on Antarctica. Additional personnel, including medical staff, engineers, weather specialists and others, augment the ship’s permanent crew for the annual 26,000-mile journey. One such member was Lt. Joseph Del Valle.

    As a chaplain with the Coast Guard, Del Valle’s role was to provide moral support, mental and emotional resiliency training and religious support services. During his 74 days aboard the ship, Del Valle conducted 12 training sessions, one Iron Man/Iron Woman competition, 44 one-on-one sessions with crew members and nine divine services.

    “During a conversation in one of our Bible studies, one of the crew members said he’d never been baptized,” Del Valle said. “They were really wanting to do it when they got back, and I thought, ‘why can't we do one on board the ship?’ We had all the supplies we needed to conduct one. I brought up the idea to the command, and they granted me permission to conduct a baptism service for three crew members.”

    Of all the services he performed, the baptisms were probably the most fulfilling for Del Valle.

    “I was honored to be a part of a tradition that goes back so long ago,” Del Valle said. “Watching my fellow shipmates profess their faith publicly was fulfilling for me and life changing for them.”

    For Murillo, the event was both meaningful and memorable.

    “Throughout my life God has blessed me time and time again,” Murillo said. “In the past, I have not always realized his presence, but he has had much bigger plans for me than I could have ever imagined. Having the opportunity to have this blessing while being surrounded by God’s pure beauty in nature during this unique mission made it more memorable and special.”

    For participants, onlookers and Del Valle, the baptisms were a moving experience.

    “It was an emotional moment for me that, even in such isolated conditions, God's presence is impactful and his spirit was felt by many,” Del Valle said.



    Date Taken: 06.19.2020
    Date Posted: 06.19.2020 13:46
    Story ID: 372484
    Location: AQ

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