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On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday this year, the central dining facility in Camp Udairi (Kuwait) caught fire, flames quickly spread to engulf all five tents and completely destroyed them in less than 30 minutes.


After the smoke cleared, and all units checked the status of their soldiers, it was apparent that everyone had made it out alive. Amazing. It was Sunday morning and a worship service had just concluded, but most of the worshippers had left. A Catholic service was scheduled next, and one of the tents would have been packed. During breakfast, all the tents were packed, but not at the time of the fire. What could have been a major catastrophe merely resulted in the loss of some equipment and soldiers eating MREs for a few days. Chaplain Barbara Sherer of the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion called it a miracle. I mentioned that the fire occurred on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. This is the day many Christians observe the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a time of penitence-being sorry for sin, in preparation for Easter. As a symbol of this time of preparation they mark their foreheads with ash. Chaplain Sherer had planned to offer ashes for Protestant soldiers who wished to observe this ritual. Traditionally, you burn palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration to make ash for Ash Wednesday but she didn’t have any. So it seemed to her that the most significant ash to use for this occasion would be ash from the DFAC.


The site was under guard, so she asked an MP to fill a cup with ashes from the fire. He walked to the rubble, scooped up some ash, and returned it to her. She placed the cup in a Zip-loc bag and put it in her tent.


Two days later she decided to open the bag and see if she needed to crunch up the ashes into smaller pieces. She was digging around in the cup with a plastic knife when she noticed the edge of something metallic. She reached in, and pulled out a cross. A flat, metal cross--just like this one [show picture]. It had some dark smudges on it from the fire, but it was otherwise undamaged. She could still read the etching on it: "Jesus Christ is Lord."


Chaplain Sherer wrote "I can’t even fathom the odds of picking the exact site of that cross out of the acreage destroyed by the fire. It doesn’t matter. The message to me is clear: God walks with us through the terrible firestorms of our lives, and we are lifted unharmed out of the ashes. We may be marked in some way, like the cross of ash placed on our foreheads during Ash Wednesday. However, that mark is a symbol of God’s love and protection."


She wears that cross now on her dogtags. She says "No matter where the Army may send me, or what God may ask of me, I will cherish this special reminder that God will never leave us alone to face the tragedies in our lives. With God’s help, we will always rise out of the ashes." (http://www.jknirp.com/shere.htm)

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