In 1993, Lt. Col. Gary Morsch joined the Army Reserves as a doctor to care not only for U.S. soldiers, but also for wounded civilians and prisoners of war. In 2005, as a part of the war in Iraq, he was called up to serve as the field doctor for a battalion near the Iranian border. He would take care of soldiers in the medical tent, provide supervision and training to eight combat medics, and visit two detainee camps to treat POWs. Even in that war-torn area of the world, Lt. Col. Morsch experienced the peace of God. He says:
One day I was supposed to travel by convoy to a military hospital in Baghdad to accompany a prisoner with a severe abdominal infection, but the mission was canceled after a bomb hit a convoy returning to our camp. That was the third time in five days that one of our convoys had been hit, so we waited until a nearby combat unit could beef up security. A day later we headed out.
As I sat in the back of a Humvee with this very sick POW, I asked myself what I thought every soldier in that convoy was asking: Why are we doing this for someone we consider our enemy? I could see risking my life and the lives of American soldiers for another American. But risking all this for an enemy POW?
In addition to the anxiety I was feeling as we made our way along the dangerous road to Baghdad, I was also feeling very lonely and homesick. When I realized that it was Sunday, and that I was going to miss the chapel service again, I grew even more depressed.
So there I was in this armored vehicle, wearing about 50 pounds of body armor, helmet and weapons—the full "battle rattle." Standing next to me was the gunner, his head sticking through the roof of the Humvee, constantly spinning one way, then another, aiming his machine gun at anything that moved, looking for snipers, motioning for cars to stop or move out of the way, and screaming at drivers who didn't understand.
We drove down the highway as fast as we could, trying to make ourselves a more difficult target to attack, tailgating the Humvee in front of us so a suicide car bomber could not come between us, and being tailgated by another Humvee. Sitting in front of me was a soldier monitoring the radio, who received messages from the Humvees ahead of us and yelled this information to the gunner and me.
I decided to fight off my sorrow by listening to some music on my MP3 player. My son-in-law, Eric, had loaded my player with about 1,000 songs before I left home. Since it was Sunday, I decided to listen to some praise music. The first song was by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place; I can feel His mighty power and His grace: I can hear the brush of angels' wings, I see glory on each face; surely the presence of the Lord is in this place."
Speeding toward Baghdad, crammed into the back of a Humvee, I sensed the presence of God as never before. I felt enveloped by the presence of God—God around me, God above me, God in me. As tears ran down my dusty cheeks, I peered through the thick, bulletproof window at Iraqis in their flowing robes, their mud-walled houses, children at play, the tall and stately palm trees. And just as surely as I felt the presence of God in that Humvee, I sensed God's presence in all that I saw—here, in this desolate country, with the Shiites, the Sunnis, the Kurds. God was surely here. He loves Iraq.
Then I thought of what this convoy was doing, and the words of Jesus came to me: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). I was filled with a deep sense of peace. I was still worried about the road ahead, but I had a sense of contentment that everything was going to be fine, no matter what happened. I knew that God profoundly loved every person on both sides of this war.
This sense of peace and contentment lasted throughout my time in Iraq. It had nothing to do with bravery or courage on my part, but everything to do with the sense that God was with me, and that many people were praying for me.