By Stan Friedman
NEW BRAUNFELS, TX (July 10, 2013)—Within hours of learning that 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. John Farias had died while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, his parents were watching and re-watching a video their son had made from the war-ravaged country just weeks earlier. Gathered at his parents’ home, his extended family repeatedly watched the video on a laptop.
In the video Farias spoke of the constant dangers he faced. “I’m starting to change a lot,” he said. “I’m kind of forced to grow up here.” He also told his parents how much he loved and missed them. He sent greetings to numerous friends by name. “I love y’all. Take care and take care of each other,” he said.
A local TV station called the video “a priceless treasure” as the family dealt with their grief. The station noted, “His mother hung onto his every word as she played the video for the crowd. ‘To hear and see his face is just the best thing,’ said Penny Farias.”
U.S. Navy Chaplain Lt. David Kim, an Evangelical Covenant Church minister, had encouraged Farias to make the video. He had urged other marines he visited at their forward operating bases and command posts to do the same, knowing it would build morale and foster connection with friends and family back home.
It is not unusual for the effects of chaplains’ work to extend beyond the military personnel whom they serve. After returning from an earlier deployment, Army Maj. Masakai Nakazono connected with family members of two soldiers who were killed in action.
After Nakazono returned from Iraq in 2006, his next assignment was to basic training. As he read over the list of new enlistees, he recognized one name. He wondered if it was the same family of a soldier he knew who had been killed in Iraq.
It turned out the recruit was the man’s brother. Nakazono shared stories about the young man’s brother.
Nakazono also ran a half-marathon with Salina Jimenez, the widow of slain Army medic David (“Doc”) Almazan, who was killed in 2006 by a roadside bomb. Jimenez formed “Team ‘Doc’ Almazan” and has run marathons, half marathons, and other races around the world to keep her husband’s memory alive, as well as that of others killed in action. She raises funds through the races that she contributes to TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).
Nakazono knew Almazan in Iraq and learned of Jimenez’s work, communicating with her several times via social media. Running with the team in a race was an honor, says Nakazono. “It kind of completes a circle.”
Sometimes the connections are more linear. Robbie Deobler is a soldier who recently joined Nakazono’s brigade. Nakazono was Deobler’s youth pastor at Turlock Covenant Church in Turlock, California.
When Nakazono posted a photo of the pair on Facebook, he wrote, “Back then the army slogan was ‘An Army of One,’ but at Turlock Covenant and Iglesia del Pacto it was ‘Somos Uno Ahora,’ which means ‘we are one now.’ ”
To see more photos go to Military Chaplains’ Call of Duty gallery.