Yesterday evening was very bittersweet. Two years ago this month, Laura and I attended our very first hail and farewell. I was told it would be my hail as I had just come on Active Duty and would be reporting to the squadron to start work as soon as I finished in-processing at Fort Stewart. I didn’t even know what a hail and farewell was.
That hail was my first introduction to the squadron. There were a bunch of faces I didn’t know. There was more than a little anxiety as I was introduced to the officers and Sr. NCOs of the unit because I was still very much carrying the weight of being a self-perceived failure in the pastorate I’d left nine months prior.
So Laura and I were hailed and welcomed into the Mustang family.
From my very earliest days in the organization, I knew that I had been blessed with 6-8 CAV being my first active duty assignment. Cavalry organizations have a rich history and a lot of great traditions like the Cav Stetson, spurs, and the spur ride. In an Infantry Brigade Combat Team, it’s the unit that is always the first into the fight and often spread out in the front of the rest of the brigade to provide early warning or to find the location of the enemy and subsequently call for artillery fire. There’s a lot of pride that comes with being in the Cav in an IBCT.
And I got be a part of that. 6-8 CAV was the organization where I cut my teeth as a Chaplain. The place where I learned what kind of Chaplain I would be after almost burning myself out trying to be something I was not. The place where I first started to wrap my mind around MDMP. The place where I would sit with Soldiers in my office and encourage, admonish, and counsel. The place where I would rejoice with those who welcomed new little babies and weep with those who lost little babies. The place where I would learn how to live out in the field for weeks at a time.
Yesterday evening all of those memories came crashing back as I stood in front of many of the officers and Sr. NCOs of the squadron. This time I knew all the faces. I also thought of all the Soldiers those officers and NCOs represented and that was when I came to a realization. The Chaplain is often looked to as a source for hope and healing. For me, the Soldiers of 6-8 brought hope and healing to a broken pastor who needed some Divine reassurance that I was indeed doing what I was called to do. I got that every single day from the wonderful people in the organization.
I got choked up toward the end of my little farewell speech as I thought about my transition to another unit here at Fort Stewart. There will never be another first unit for me. But what a blessed first unit I had. Thank you, Mustang brothers and sisters, serving with you has been a great honor and I will always cherish the memories of my time in 6-8 CAV. Every day you let me do what I love and because of that a lot of the wounds that I had before coming on Active Duty were able to heal.