Friday, October 07, 2005

"Corn-Fed" Carolina Boy

Sergeant David Lee, my chaplain assistant, is critical to the success of my ministry to soldiers and their families. We get along really well. In fact, as much as a chaplain and his assistant can be, we are also close friends. I am unaware of any other scenario in the military in which an officer (me) and an enlisted soldier (SGT Lee) work so closely together. SGT Lee is 29, from Barnwell, South Carolina, a graduate of Bryan College (where he played basketball), the son of David and Honor Lee, and the big brother of Rocky and Deanna.

Last August he married his sweetheart, Marie Townes (now Lee). Margie, is a graduate of Clemson and teaches pre-school-aged autistic children in the Columbia, SC area. We deployed to Iraq four months into their marriage and three months into Margie's pregnancy. (Even the soldiers of Ancient Israel were given a year sabbatical before going off to war!) Being deployed is nothing new for SGT Lee; he was with this division--the Third Infantry Division--when they reached Baghdad in April, 2003. He also spent several months in Kosovo in 2001. After 7 years of voluntary service, SGT Lee plans to get out and coach high school sports once we return to the states. He went home for two weeks of R&R in June so he could be with Margie when she gave birth to Annabelle--pictured here. He enjoys speculating at which sports she'll excel--all of them of course!

SGT Lee is a big guy. He is gentle and affectionate, and yet these are not the qualities that come across when you first meet him--he can be somewhat ominous. He is good friends with the junior enlisted soldiers, as many of them knew him before his promotion to sergeant. This also helps me keep my thumb on the pulse of the unit. SGT Lee gives me the heads up when a soldier needs to see me or is having a tough time. As my chaplain assistant, he is a cross between an office manager and a body guard. As the only soldier in the army who cannot carry a weapon (something strange for me with my prior service as a tanker), chaplains rely heavily on their assistants to facilitate religious support and protect them from the enemy. This dynamic requires me to drive in combat, which allows him free hands to use his M16 and navigate.

SGT Lee is Southern Baptist, and to my knowledge my being a Latter-day Saint has never been an issue in our work. He supports me when my services and programs address Protestant soldiers and audiences (which is most of the time), but also when they address LDS soldiers. When I first met him, SGT Lee reminded me of my brother Josh. But this impression is now far too simplistic for me--isn't it interesting how getting to know one another requires us to reorder our thinking. We spend a good deal of each day together, including our daily workout at the gym (when the mission allows, anyway).

I can't do justice to introducing you to SGT Lee without mentioning that the man LOVES sports--his poor wife. I have heard enough about the The University of South Carolina (the only "USC" he's aware of) Gamecocks to last me several lifetimes. The Gamecock's native rivals are the Clemson Tigers (remember, that's where Margie went to school), so this couple is destined to argue about sports like other couples argue about money, kids, etc. They have good fun with it. Right now, with college football season starting and with Major League Baseball playoffs in full swing--SGT Lee is as happy as a man can be who is separated from his family. In the picture above SGT Lee is playing basketball with some of our Alpha Company soldiers at FOB Danger.

1 comment:

Joseph Smith, Jr. said...

Interesting blog. Enjoyed reading it.

Sincerely,

Joseph Smith Jr.
Mormon Ward
http://www.whatismormonism.com