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Christmas 2007 in Anbar: My Last Mass to Love…

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“It’s my last mass, my last mass to love…”

It’s funny how a slight twisting of the lyrics of a classic Disco song can blend with one’s wartime experience, instead of my last dance, it was my last mass, to love….

I was in Iraq in December 2007 on an 11 day expedition to American advisors to Iraqi Army and Border units in Al Anbar Province toward the end of my tour in Iraq. The mission was to provide chaplain support and spiritual succor to the American soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and civilians, as well as the Iraqi and other Arab interpreters and contractors serving in incredibly isolated parts of the province near the Syrian border.

For me it was one of the last magical times in my life. I was exhausted and already suffering from insomnia and nightmares caused by PTSD that I was unaware of having, but while I was there that didn’t matter, in fact if I would have been allowed to extend in Iraq back then I would have. It was my life and the men and women that I served mattered more to me than anything. It still does…

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COP South

After a number of visits with other elements we traveled out to a small base near the Syrian border called COP South. It was the location of two teams of advisors, one which supported elements of the Second Border Brigade and one which supported the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Brigade of the 7th Iraqi Army Division. We were not strangers to either team. Following the vista there we made our way to COP North, also along the Syrian border to do the same for two other advisor teams, one supporting a different Border unit and and the 2nd battalion of the 3rd Brigade of the 7th Division.

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With the Bedouin on the Border, I’m the bald guy without the helmet. 

These outposts were terribly isolated. The men who served there served in incredibly austere conditions where danger lurked just beyond the sand berms that were the boundaries between them and the Islamist extremists of Al Qaeda Iraq and their supporters. The berms were not much comfort to anyone on either of the two most west most COPs in theater. Just to the west was Syria, a haven and support to the Al Qaeda Iraq insurgents and their supporters. All around were Iraqi Sunnis who many only recently had changed their allegiance to support the Americans against the largely foreign AQI forces.

The men that I served were not a typical congregation that you would find in the states. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatics, Catholics, non-denominational types, Latter Day Saints and even a few Iraqi Christians, some who had not received Eucharist from any priest for years gathered for mass at COP South and COP North that Christmas of 2007. Iraqi Moslems wished us well. Peace on earth in the midst of war.

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At Border Fort Five on the Syrian Border

As I mentioned I was exhausted. We had been on the road, flying and in small convoys of just a few vehicles since we arrived in theater, I was also on my last legs. I had stood with and stayed with the wounded, I had seen the destruction wrought on Iraqi facilities and people by both sides. All that mattered was to get out with the men and women who had no other formal spiritual support. I would have stayed another year to provide that support, but I knew that would not happen.

When they were done and we headed back to Ta’Qaddum, the base that we operated from I realized that the support we had provided was the high point of my military Chaplain career as well as my priesthood. Instead of my “last dance” as Dona Summer’s song said, it was my “last mass” to love.

Since then things have not been the same for me. I have talked and written about this before on this site, but those masses with those small groups of Americans and Iraqis meant more to me than any I have ever celebrated, especially those after my return from Iraq in 2008. For me, the magic and mystery have disappeared. I struggle with faith and belief even as I chose to believe in spite of my doubts.

There are times I wonder if it would have been better to have been killed by a rocket, an IED, an ambush or to have been shot down in Iraq, rather than to have to deal with this seemingly endless crisis of faith and to inflict my shit on those that I love. But then such is life and such is war.

Honestly I have to say that I believe again, but I am not sure why. I have to say that while I believe my doubts encompass me.

Christmas will never be the same for me. Yes, I have celebrated man masses since I returned, but to quote the Barry Manilow song, I’m “trying to get the feeling again” and sadly, despite my efforts I don’t think that will ever happen. If it does I will rejoice. If it doesn’t I will persevere just hoping and praying that feelings and facts matter less than faith and doing the best that I can.

Anyway. I am tired and just hoping that this Christmas will be different and that maybe I will get that feeling again, if not now, maybe someday….

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under christian life, faith, iraq,afghanistan, Military, ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion, Tour in Iraq

Spendin’ the Nighttime Reminiscing: Padre Steve Remembers the Music of the 1970s and Early 1980s

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I don’t know about you but the music that I really enjoy is the music that was popular when I was in Junior High, High School and College.  For me that period spanned the years 1971-1983.

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It was a turbulent era. The Vietnam War was ending and Nixon was resigning due to the Watergate break in cover-up despite going to China and establishing the beginning of detente with the Soviet Union.  Assassination attempts on political leaders, successful and unsuccessful, were common. Two attempts were made on Gerald Ford.  Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt victim fell to terrorists while President  Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were felled by bullets which did not prove fatal.

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The Cold War was tense despite the beginning of detente and signing of Nuclear Weapons treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Middle East was in turmoil even as Egypt and Israel hammered out a peace treaty withe the help of US President Jimmy Carter. In Iran a revolution swept the Shah of Iran out of power bringing the Ayatollah Khomeini into power.  The seizure of the US Embassy and the 444 day hostage crisis punctuated by a failed rescue attempt demoralized the United States. In October 1983 247 Marines were killed in a terror bombing of their barracks at the Beirut International Airport.

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The Soviets invaded Afghanistan which would become their Vietnam, as part of the Cold War this lead to US involvement with Mujahideen. The US support with the Mujahideen was a fateful alliance that brought the Taliban to prominence and introduced the world to Osama Bin Laden. The Cubans were fighting in Angola while the Anti-Apartheid movement struggled with its leader Nelson Mandela languishing in a South African prison.

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High profile terrorist attacks became common. The Palestinian terrorist group Black September killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. European terrorist organizations including the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction and Bader Meinhof gang, the Irish Republican Army and the American Weather Underground provided a constant string of terrorist attacks even as Middle Eastern terrorist groups highjacked airliners in daring fashion, matched at times by equally rescues by Israeli and German anti-terrorist units.

The American and the world economies were in a state of recession much of the era. There was a major recession, the American auto industry needed bailouts, inflation was running in double digits as was the unemployment rate. The dollar was weak and OPEC wreaked havoc on world oil markets with embargoes in 1973 and 1979.

Casey Kasem AT40 Ad

However it was music in the 1970s and early 1980s that provided a diversion for many people looking for respite from all the bad news that echoed around the airwaves and in the newspapers.  Thankfully there wasn’t a 24 hour cable news cycle yet otherwise people would have probably been jumping off of buildings.  It was the heyday of AM Top 40 type stations and the beginning of rock oriented FM music stations. Kasey Kasem gave voice to the hits with American Top 40. As for me I had countless 45s and LPs of my favorite groups and artists.

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I listened  Doctor Donald D Rose of KFRC in San Francisco and my car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 had a retro-fitted 8-Track tape player and speakers.

Great groups and artists ruled the pop and rock airwaves and the era produced some of the best rock, pop, R&B, soul, country-rock, disco and new-wave music ever done. It really was an amazing era both in quality and diversity of music .

It was not “message music” like much 60’s music but focused on entertainment.  Power groups like Journey, Starship, REO Speedwagon and Boston made power ballads, while AC/DC and KISS shocked and entertained at the same time.  Groups like the Blondie, the Eagles, Chicago, Paul McCartney and Wings, Abba and the Commodores dominated the pop charts while individual artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Elton John, Carly Simon, John Denver, Lionel Ritchie, Barry Manilow and others satisfied the more mainstream pop crown.  Disco enjoyed a brief heyday with the popularity of Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees.  R&B enjoyed a renaissance due to the unlikely duo of the Blues Brothers who helped re-launch the careers of Aretha Franklin, Johnny Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway and a host of others. Country crossovers became big with Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Glenn Campbell leading the way.  As the 80’s came along new groups and styles were introduced including New Wave and Rap. It was music that helped us through those times.

I listen to that music all the time and remember those turbulent days well. It certainly wasn’t the fact that things were great in the world. That being said despite bad news there was still some sense of that things would work out okay.  Music helped provide part of that sense of hope. It was an escape and the music of that time is still with us. Many of those those groups haven’t gone away and people look back with fondness to the music of the era even as the artists age and pass away.

Here are some of my favorites with links to the videos, they are in no particular order nor are the representative of all the groups that I have in my library of CDs and DVDs, but I enjoy the heck out of them.  Have fun and enjoy.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Little River Band “Reminiscing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ_3G4xqSDQ

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Olivia Newton-John “Magic”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7WPwH8Rd6g

and “I Honestly Love You”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zGLSnZGZts 

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The Commodores “Sail On” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg-ivWxy5KE

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The Eagles “Hotel California” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnkJcjBCG88

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AC/DC “You Shook Me All Night Long”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo2qQmj0_h4

KISS “I Was Made for Loving You” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7fxN3g5sLw

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton: Islands in the Stream http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=recWNQddJeE&feature=related

Rupert Holmes: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaOXWJKsX-U

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Donna Summer: Last Dance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cPIT_T3mYU

Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9jmusgMgro&feature=related

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Bee Gees “How Deep is You Love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqqjU7u5Yc

Dr Hook “Cover of the Rolling Stone” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJu6Up9w2Hc

John Denver: Take Me Home Country Roads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukUL_I14GPw

Three Dog Night, Joy to the World http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2x3af_three-dog-night-joy-to-the-world_people

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The Carpenters “Rainy Days and Mondays” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmbT5XC-q0

Paul McCartney and Wings  “Band on the Run http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qx2jEfBsqY

The Trammps “Disco Inferno” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_sY2rjxq6M

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Rod Stewart “Tonight’s the Night”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1p96h_rod-stewarttonights-the-nightgonna_music

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Abba “The Winner Takes it All” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92cwKCU8Z5c

and “Waterloo” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj_9CiNkkn4

Elvis Presley: Suspicious Minds

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBmAPYkPeYU

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Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kMVdazvII4 

Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcjzHMhBtf0

Albert Hammond: It Never Rains in Southern California http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pyC7WnvLT4

queen

Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ

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Blondie “Heart of Glass” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGU_4-5RaxU

Neil Diamond: Sweet Caroline

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I

Boz Skaggs “Lido Shuffle” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIu0jQ5TaRQ&feature=PlayList&p=8201408B8B6E42C8&index=2

Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPUmE-tne5U

Billy Joel “Piano Man” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxEPV4kolz0

barry-manilow

Barry Manilow “Mandy” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM7SQzq3yHQ

Heart: Crazy on You

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gpNqB4dnT4&feature=related

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Village People: YMCA

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k

Fleetwood Mac “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8arvEzHsA8

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Laura Branigan “Gloria”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tVutw8rjFk

Carly Simon “You’re So Vain”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g

Chicago “Saturday in the Park”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWxA3e9f6rY

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Linda Ronstadt “When Will I Be Loved”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmE7tTzJkbU

Foghat “Third Time Lucky”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj1O2KtH4kE

The Captain and Tennille “Do that to Me One More Time”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNHcgk5bf7o&feature=related

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Finally, the Blues Brothers “Everybody Needs Somebody”

http://www.mojvideo.com/video-the-blues-brothers-everybody-needs-somebody-to-love/ac0b631b54ff095fd5c0

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Still More Reasons Why I Miss the Music of the 1970s

Yesterday I posted an article regarding some the the songs that became a part of my life during my time at Edison High School in the 1970s. That post featured some of the great Funk, Soul, Blues and Disco songs of the era. Since I have been in a 1970s retro mood of late I figured that I would do another anthology article about songs that I still love from the 1970s. These are songs that were hits on the Pop Charts featuring solo artists as well as groups. They range from Elvis and former Beatles members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, to soul greats Robert Flack and Tina Turner, classic vocalists like Olivia Newton-John and Neil Diamond, Country crossovers John Denver and Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton to the super groups that got their start in the 1970s, ABBA, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Heart, Queen, Kiss and the Eagles.

One thing to notice, just as in yesterday’s article is that the majority of these artists and groups didn’t need a lot of help, they had the goods and were excellent in the studio and on stage. The on stage performances, even when the video is not so great are electric to watch.

I have tried to make sure that the videos are from concerts or live performances so readers that did not live through that era can get a taste of a time where though times were tough and life often turbulent that people could deal with life. The songs are about life, love, heartbreak, good times and sometimes just plain fun. They are in no particular order, just the how they popped into my mind as I thought back to those times and then searched the internet.

I hope you enjoy the journey and the music as much as I did.

Peace

Padre Steve+

ABBA: Chiquitita http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzdfPEsf7qY

Barry Manilow: Mandy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK8-gZVkYsk

Linda Ronstadt: You’re no Good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr9vKWLgZzo

The Captain and Tennille: Love Will Keep us Together http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjloX_EvYiI

Olivia Newton John: Have You Never Been Mellow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IFQZyxxyyM

Rod Stewart: The First Cut is the Deepest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1XJ72BPXao

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7wwZVB4yMI

Bee Gees: How Deep is Your Love http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqqjU7u5Yc

Heart: Crazy on You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gpNqB4dnT4&feature=related

Village People: YMCA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k

Neil Diamond: Sweet Caroline http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I

Dr Hook and the Medicine Show: When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxpYN-NK54Y

Blondie: Heart of Glass http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGU_4-5RaxU

Eagles: Hotel California http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1iv6lof5JM&feature=related

Chicago: If You Leave Me Now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1ykMNtzMT8

Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9jmusgMgro&feature=related

John Denver: Take Me Home Country Roads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukUL_I14GPw

Elvis Presley: Suspicious Minds http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBmAPYkPeYU

Paul McCartney and Wings: Silly Love Songs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQgUPxgqnfA

Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ

Glen Campbell: Rhinestone Cowboy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p8wDhK5LyY

Ringo Starr: The No No Song (With the Smothers Brothers) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQgUPxgqnfA

Albert Hammond: It Never Rains in Southern California http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pyC7WnvLT4

Kiss: Rock and Roll all Night Long http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Env5iMrBjws

Tina Turner: Rollin’ on the River http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brdqJ29PQac

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton: Islands in the Stream http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=recWNQddJeE&feature=related

Rupert Holmes: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaOXWJKsX-U

Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GN2kpBoFs4

Donna Summer: Last Dance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cPIT_T3mYU

And finally a thank you…

ABBA: Thank You for the Music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dcbw4IEY5w


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