First person: From Ground Zero in NYC to serving in Baghdad

I remember an 8-year boy standing next to me crying and saying repeatedly, “Why did they have to kill my daddy?”
(Photo courtesy of Don Biadog, Jr.)

First person: From Ground Zero in NYC to serving in Baghdad

I was sent as a North American Mission Board-endorsed military chaplain by my command in northern California to New York City on Sept. 25, 2001, to assist first responders and help hurting Americans. 

The sight, smell and sound of rescue machines was utterly devastating.

I saw unimaginable destruction. Rescuers covered with dust still frantically looking and fruitlessly hoping to find surviving individuals in the rubble. 

When I arrived at Ground Zero, one of the ministry outreach initiatives I proposed to our CERT — Chaplain Emergency Response Team — of U.S. Navy chaplains serving with the U.S. Coast Guard was escorting the victims’ families to Ground Zero.

When the family members and friends of crewmembers from United Airlines and American Airlines arrived at the scene, they saw, smelled and heard the horrible site. They wept bitterly and publicly. Some wailed “Why, why, why?”

I remember an 8-year boy standing next to me crying and saying repeatedly, “Why did they have to kill my daddy?” I tried to comfort the young man and many other family members. 

In ministering to the distressed people in a disaster area in New York, I used many encouraging Bible verses, especially Psalm 46:1. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Three years later

When I went to New York City, I served at Ground Zero. Three years later I served in Baghdad, Iraq.    

Serving in a combat zone was scary. It was a daily frightening experience.

At around 5 each morning, insurgents would drop rockets and mortars near our living quarters. In the six months I was in the desert, I lost three of my neighbors, including the highest-ranking government civilian employee. I also saw multiple casualties from direct hits of the rockets.  

One man I served with at Camp Victory was inside the shower trailer when rockets hit there at 5 a.m. Another time, an injured soldier saw me and grinned. “Thank God! It was not my time. God is good!” I used the Word of God, especially Psalm 91, during my ministry time in Iraq.

The impact of our ministry during the Operation Iraqi Freedom-2 was — and is — greatly appreciated not only by many American and coalition service members, but by the thousands of Iraqis and third-country nationals we worked with and reached out to in Baghdad, Iraq, including Thair Behnan.

I was able to help him, his wife and seriously ill daughter to a life-saving operation in Indiana and safety in America. This involved traveling through sniper-infested roads, including Route Irish, “the world’s most dangerous road.”  

‘Needless man-made disasters’

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were diabolical actions and needless man-made disasters. War is a man-made disaster and sadly, most of the war victims are civilians.

The depressing effects of the war in the Persian Gulf and Middle East continue to impact service members’ families.

I have consoled and comforted several hundred service members, widows, parents, siblings, relatives and friends of fallen heroes.

Many of our war veterans have taken their own lives because of mental illness, PTSD, survival guilt, incurable illness and other unknown reasons. 

As we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, please join me in remembering and praying for the families who lost loved ones in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and during the war in the Middle East. 

War survivors and veterans need our daily prayers too. Many families continue to suffer due to the loss of loved ones.

Veterans continue to endure the lingering and debilitating effects of the war.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This first-person article was edited for length and brevity and was written by Don Biadog, Jr. Biadog, who retired from military service in 2019, recently was named VFW National Chaplain of the Year. He continues to serve through VFW Post 7907, as missions/executive pastor at Old Town Community Church in San Diego, California and as a NAMB Chaplain Ambassador.

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