CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq – Soldiers from the Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) along with soldiers from 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in a National Day of Prayer Breakfast this morning. Just weeks after a federal ruling declaring the NDOP unconstitutional, soldiers participated in the prayer breakfast led by Chaplain, 1st Lt. Geoffrey Whitaker of the Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. On April 15, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the statute establishing the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional as it is "an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function." However, Crabb stayed her own ruling until the completion of appeals.
"Because of the faith of many of our founding fathers, public prayer and national days of prayer have a long-standing and significant history in American tradition," said Whitaker.
Lt. Col. Warner Holt, the Garrison commander of COS Marez, addressed the soldiers at the prayer breakfast. "Saint Augustine said, 'We hasten to Christ not by running, but by believing.' These words are still true. There is no better way to demonstrate our faith and belief than through prayer."
Holt reflected on his experiences during combat in Afghanistan and how facing the loss of fellow U.S. and Afghan soldiers tested and revealed that faith. "I experienced first-hand the power of prayer…I could literally feel God's protection as bullets, mortars and Rocket Propelled Grenades were focused in our direction," he said.
Whitaker also knows the power of prayer. His last visit to the Middle East was in 2003 as a SEAL Team Officer. Falling from a helicopter, he sustained a serious head injury and nearly died. With a crushed skull, he was unconscious for 10 days. After a heroic surgery, doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of surviving with an even slimmer chance of ever recovering. Whitaker said he defied the odds and made a full recovery, returning to full duty with the SEAL's within 12 months. He said he owes his recovery to the thousands of people praying for him around the world.
When asked how the court decision may impact him or his soldiers, Holt says, "I don't think that it will keep us from praying. We still have the opportunity to pray as a unit, if the soldiers so desire."
For these soldiers, far removed from formal gatherings and debate in the United States, that desire was expressed throughout the day. Before mounting their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, soldiers from the Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th ACR regularly pray in formation and informal gatherings. Often giving thanks, asking for hope, asking for God to watch over those back home, and asking for strength to cope with what they face outside the safety of their base. For them, every day is a day of prayer!