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Marine Finds Solace in Combat Baptism

MIANPOSHTEH, Afghanistan -- The bravado of Marines fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province is punctuated by quiet moments of questioning and introspection.

A few Marines ask why they survived when their best friends did not. Others question how they will deal with the stress of combat. Many wonder what people back home know about their actions here.

Spirituality is a source of solace. Lance Cpl. Zachary Ludwig, 20, of Marco Island, Florida, wanted to be baptized before he and thousands of other Marines pushed deep into Taliban-held territory beginning early this month.

But it was not until this week that Chaplain Navy Lt.. Terry A. Roberts arrived at Ludwig's tiny outpost in the southern village of Mianposhteh to perform the ceremony.

Wearing olive green t-shirts and shorts, Roberts, of northern Kentucky, led Ludwig into an irrigation ditch that flowed through the compound of an Afghan home where Ludwig and his platoon are camped out.

After reading a Bible verse, Roberts submersed Ludwig in the water drawn from the Helmand River, later noting that Ludwig was probably one of the few Christians recently baptized in Afghanistan.

"A very close friend told me that when you're in the military you have to have the spiritual side because God will give you guidance in combat," Ludwig said as he stood dripping on the dirt courtyard where he lives with his comrades.

"I wanted to be closer so He could keep me safe" said Ludwig, of 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which clashes with the Taliban almost daily. The baptism "means more after going through the firefights," he said.

By Ann Scott Tyson  |  July 28, 2009; 4:46 PM ET
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"when you're in the military you have to have the spiritual side because God will give you guidance in combat"

Finally, something we and the Taliban can agree on.

Posted by: DupontJay | July 28, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I once heard someone say words to the effect that the armed forces are not a good job for a Christian. I beg to differ. If I were to rely on people in trying situations requiring discernment, judgement, courage, determination, and faithfulness I would feel more comfortable knowing that the people in battles for my country's good were close followers of Christ. This is especially important knowing that their possible death is final and heaven is only accessible for people who put their complete trust in Jesus Christ. I see no pleasure in the death of anyone, but I am distressed knowing that people reject Christ, sometimes due to pride or stubborness, sometimes due to ignorance, even deliberate ignorance, sometimes due to hate, and enter into an eternity which is not merely substandard, but is an absolute hell. I'm an Aussie, God please bless America too.

Posted by: DavidFalconer | July 28, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

This sort of thing might comfort soldiers. Whether it comforts God is a more chancy issue. The German army in World War II put the principle on the assembly line: all soldiers had in German the words "God with us" on their belt buckles.

Good luck to Mr Ludwig.

Posted by: kunino | July 28, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

My thoughts on this are the same as when my retired missionary sister wants to hold hands to thank the Lord for our food at the table.
My thought, "Thank you oh Lord for selecting ME for bountiful food while you selected millions of children all over the world to starve and die in misery. I guess it's because I am such a good Christian. Also thanks for letting me make a football touch down today."

In two words. . ."unbelievable stupitity"!!!

Posted by: lufrank1 | July 28, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

We learn today the number of insurgents (civilians) killed (murdered) in Afghanistan (Pakistan) is not being reported by the US military. The US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, of bombing civilian areas by drones, is causing a strengthening of fundamentalism in Pakistan.

US General Petraeus has been giving evidence in support of Obama's fight against the American Civil Liberties Union, to suppress further photos and videos of torture of prisoners, apparently including rape.

Petraeus' evidence says that to release the torture material would further inflame opinion against the United States, when it is already inflamed by bombings and civilian casualties and anti-Americanism can be measured as increasing:

Public support for the U.S. is declining in Pakistan because of military strikes there that the U.S. conducts from Afghanistan, according to the top American commander in the Middle East.

"Most polling data reflects" an increase in anti-U.S. sentiment, General David Petraeus said, without identifying the source of the polling.

Pakistanis are angered by "cross-border operations and reported drone strikes" that they believe "cause unacceptable civilian casualties," Petraeus wrote in court papers supporting President Barack Obama’s decision not to release photographs showing the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan

So, I say to you, President Obama, the US is enforcing a military strategy (which they acknowledge is counterproductive and destabilizing Pakistan), by NOT reporting civilian casualties?

This office will start reporting casualties in detail in the Washington Post from agents in the country, then, maybe then we can sleep easier under God's eye.

Posted by: coiaorguk | July 29, 2009 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Lufrank- how could you get it so wrong?

Blame a God you don't believe in for the hunger of those that are attacked by the bondage of hunger? If you were a christian you would understand the wisdom of why some suffer and God has nothing to do with their suffering, that is the problem, they have nothing to do with God, hence they do not benefit from a personal relationship with him. A relationship that gives one the opportunity to communicate with a Father that guides your thoughts towards wisdom. That knowledge will bring you out of all types of bondage whether it be hunger or in a battle field. He hears those that call his name just the same as you would hear your own childs cry for help. It's not Gods fault that not everyone wants to be his child, all are welcome but not all choose so. Would you force your own children to love you? What purpose would that serve?

Posted by: Talina1 | August 3, 2009 3:22 AM | Report abuse

These brave men and women put their lives on the line for us and if praying and getting baptised gives them the sense security they need, let them do it! Its their lives on the line, not smart-mouths and pundits who are not there and are not fighting. These men and women have families home, mothers, fathers, children, wives, husbands waiting and praying that all will be well. They receive the emails, they know their fears, concerns,worries. Its incumbent on every American to pray for them.

Posted by: buenor77 | August 3, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

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