God Answers Prayer - The Warrior's Journey®

Virginia Guard chaplain support teams support military personnel in Louisianna. Photo by National Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15, NIV)

It was a cold, overcast day in Tuzla, Bosnia, in March of 1996. The biting wind made it even more miserable. As the Task Force Eagle Chaplain, I was visiting the Aviation Brigade unit ministry teams located at Comanche Base Camp. Having just arrived, I was talking with the Brigade Chaplain and one of the Battalion Chaplains, Chaplain (CPT) Dan Wackerhagen.

Suddenly, the base camp emergency alarm sounded and a soldier came running by us saying that some of our soldiers had been injured. Immediately the three of us began walking quickly to the scene of the accident. It was a long walk because the airfield was nearly a half-mile long. When we arrived we found that a huge machine gun tower constructed out of 20-foot-long, 12-square inch beams had collapsed and fallen on some soldiers.

Given the limited medical resources available, we were experiencing a mass casualty event. There was yelling and screaming as soldiers rushed to the scene. It was a terrifying sight.

One of the soldiers was pinned to the ground by a huge beam. The beam had fallen horizontally across the small of his back. The beam was too large to pick up. Engineers quickly brought shovels and began to dig under him until they could slide him out from under the beam.

A sense of dread had fallen over those present because of the potential seriousness of the soldier’s injuries. It was one those things that makes one queasy to look at. The victim was sobbing and moving his arms, but his legs were completely limp. He kept repeating, “I can’t feel my legs!”

Soon the engineers slid a 12-foot-long, 2 x 10 board under him and pulled him out from under the beam.

The medical evacuation team had just arrived and was making its assessment. The soldier was not a pretty sight. In addition to coughing up blood, he was bleeding heavily from the upper skull area, nose, and left ear. The likelihood of multiple fractures and internal bleeding in the chest cavity seemed high. Paralysis in one or more limbs was certainly possible.

The medics tried to be as gentle as they could, but the process still appeared brutal. In life and death situations, medics cannot afford to allow pain to slow their work. The soldier was in obvious agony, screaming the entire time, and even louder as they examined his injuries and started an intravenous injection to keep him from going into shock.

For those not accustomed to emergency first aid, it was unsettling to say the least. I turned and watched numerous soldiers grimace as they listened to the screams. Most chose to walk away. With the other trauma surrounding the accident, it was more than they could endure.

The medics strapped him down to the board to ensure that his neck and back could not move. They then carried him to the chopper that was standing by and loaded him aboard. But there was a problem.

The board to which they had strapped the soldier was extending out both sides of the helicopter. It was not a safe situation. They placed the injured soldier back on the ground. One of the engineers produced a hand crosscut saw and proceeded to saw off both ends of the board.

Every time the engineer cut a stroke, the injured soldier cried out in pain. It seemed like it was taking forever to get him out of there. It was excruciating to watch. The medics, pilots and engineers surrounding him were unnerved and arguing about what to do.

But then, God intervened in a special way. Chaplain Wackerhagen stepped near the soldier. He knelt down and laid his hands on the injured soldier’s head and began to loudly recite the Lord’s Prayer. Something very special happened. Everyone there seemed to sense God’s presence. The soldier calmed down and became very quiet, peaceful and still.

The engineer cutting the board began to make faster progress. Every soldier there was reciting the Lord’s Prayer along with Chaplain Wackerhagen. He finished the prayer, and they got the soldier on the chopper and to the hospital.

After remaining at Comanche Base Camp for a couple more hours, I returned to headquarters at Tuzla. As much as I tried, I could not get the injured soldier off my mind, particularly the images of him screaming in pain as the medics tried to help him.

The next day the brigade chaplain called with amazing news. The injured soldier was doing fine. The doctors had made a thorough examination and determined that the extent of his injuries were a few minor bruises. He was released from the hospital and returned to his unit.

I believe God did a miracle at Comanche Base Camp that day because a military chaplain turned to God in prayer. With him, a bunch of cold, dirty, tired, and worn-out soldiers called upon His Name in time of crisis.

The lesson is simple, but profound. No matter how out of control things seem to get on the ground, always remember to pray. God will help you.

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