When faith matters on the battlefield

soldiers prayingThe flurry of election-related news this past week has kept me from noting an excellent piece in The New York Times last week that is absolutely superb and touching in its handling of a sniper situation in Iraq. Reporter C.J. Chivers, with the help of producer Eric Owles, supplemented the article with an equally poignant photo gallery and voiceover. The article helps readers feel as though they're at the scene of the incident. I especially appreciated the article's final paragraphs for their unflinching portrayal of spirituality in a time of war:

Inside the wire, First Lt. Scott R. Burlison, the company commander, gathered the group and told them that Lance Corporal Smith was alive and in surgery. He was critical, but stable. They hoped to fly him to Germany.

Doc had scrubbed himself clean. A big marine stepped forward with a small Bible, and the platoon huddled. He began with Psalm 91, verses 5 and 11.

"Thou shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day," said the big marine, Lance Cpl. Daniel B. Nicholson. "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."

Then he asked for the Lord to look after Lance Corporal Smith and whatever was ahead, and to take care of everyone who was still in the platoon.

praying soldiers"Help us Lord," he said. "We need your help. It's the only way we're going to get through this."

Doc stood in the corner, his arm looped over a marine. "Amen," he said. There were some hugs, and then the marines and their Doc went back to their bunks and their guns.

I encourage you to read the entire piece. As the headline of the article says, the story is about taking care of a fallen Marine "with skill, prayer and fury." It is an example of reporting a scene with honesty, accuracy and precise care for details. If only more reporting could be like this.

I don't know if there are other examples of war correspondents drawing out the faith angle of the soldiers they cover, but I'll greatly appreciate if any of you dig up some links to the pieces and post them in the comments section.

Prayer, faith and God are real parts of our world, and war and conflict seem especially suited to bring this out in journalism, but are there other areas where prayer plays a real part of the events on the ground? A recent example could be the account in The Atlantic of Sen. Hillary Clinton's prayer group, but are there others?

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