Service members, civilians unite to send message of hope to Katrina victims
By Master Sgt. Lek Mateo
ALI AIR BASE, Iraq Americans serving in Iraq who have families and friends affected by Hurricane Katrina came together during a remembrance ceremony at the base chapel here Sept. 7.
U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Donald E. Sides, of the 56th Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, addressed the congregation before him and asked that its members come together to reflect on the tragic loss of life and send a message of hope through prayer to the survivors.
Chaplain Sides said that the tragedy took a heavy toll of human life and has deeply affected many people here in Iraq and that holding the memorial ceremony is a way for everyone to come together in unity and show those back at home that they are not forgotten by those serving overseas.
The people back home are facing a great challenge and tragedy and our prayers are with them, Chaplain Sides said.
The chaplain shared a spiritual message with survivors of the storm who he said have endured horrible and traumatic times in the past days and weeks, recalling a verse from the Old Testament which stated that, in times of tragedy, God is there and cares and that there is hope and a future.
No matter what the tragedy is or how deep the hurt, the Lord is with us and will help us through times of turmoil, Chaplain Sides continued.
Marcia Washington, a civilian employee that works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Southern District, said that she came to seek solace and comfort and send a prayer to those who have lost everything.
The New Orleans native tearfully told those in her presence that her entire family that lives in the city was devastated by the storm and her older brother is still among those who are missing. She added that, for her, not knowing if he is alive and safe is the hardest thing to take.
Although the road to recovery will be long and painful, Ms. Washington said, the people of New Orleans will overcome the adversity they confront because they are spiritually strong and prayerful and she believes in her heart that her brother will be found.
I have to keep faith that my brother will be found alive and safe, Ms. Washington said. There may be some weak moments sometimes but I have to stay strong.
Capt. Kesler Weaver Jr., of the Alabama Army National Guard, assigned to the 122nd Corps Support Group, 1st Corps Support Command, could not hold back his emotions as stirring images of the victims being rescued from the flood waters flashed across the screen on stage. The storm not only affected his aunt in Mississippi but also his friends living along the Alabama coast.
The captain said he believes the storm has brought out the best of people and shows how everyone can pull together in times of tragedy to overcome adversity. He also said he hopes the tragedy will reignite the rest of the nation, to include those serving in Iraq, to come together and show compassion and reach out to their fellow human beings during their time of need.
Captain Weaver added that he would like everyone affected by Katrina to know that they are always in their hearts and minds even though they are far away and cannot be there to help with relief and recovery efforts.
No matter how far away we go, America is still our home and we’ll pull together to pull through this crisis.