Former chaplain reflects on service in Iraq

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Former Navy chaplain Blake Lasater speaks at a Memorial Day observance Monday in Eureka Springs. (Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News)

After serving in the U.S. Navy for 15 years, Rev. Blake Lasater has learned how important it is to have faith in trying situations.

He shared a story from his service at the American Legion Walker-Wilson Post 9's Memorial Day service on Monday morning, saying he truly realized the power of prayer when serving in Iraq. Lasater said he was serving as the chaplain for his battalion. He recalled how the brigadier general surprised him one day.

"He came to my chapel service, which was highly unusual," Lasater said. "I actually had to go wake up my skipper and tell him, 'Hey, the general's here. You might want to come to church.' "

When the chapel service was over, Lasater said the general asked to speak with him privately. Lasater remembered sitting in the general's office, unsure of what the general had to say. When the general asked him for a favor, Lasater said he agreed before he knew what the favor was.

"[The general] said, 'We're losing far too many men and women. Every day goes by and we're losing people,' " Lasater said. "He said, 'It's time we start praying.' "

Lasater continued, saying the general asked him to pray for the men and women who were serving the country every morning. Lasater said he complied. Five months later, he said the general surprised him again.

"I was in the mess hall eating and ... he dropped a note on the table," Lasater said. "It was a note that only had a zero on it."

The zero, he said, represented how many men and women had died that week.

"For the remainder of that deployment, we went weeks without any casualties or deaths," Lasater said. "Unlike the other battalions, our battalion came home without a single fatality."

He pointed out that Memorial Day honors the lives of the men and women who did not come home from war. This is important, Lasater said, because those men and women gave their lives so that Americans could continue to live in a free country.

"We have a wonderful gift, and I worry that so many of us don't appreciate that gift," he said. "I deeply respect the men and women I served with, especially those who gave their life for others. I cannot begin to fathom the courage they had in their heart -- the commitment they had to our nation -- that they were willing to do this."

Lasater noted how critical some people are of the military, saying he's heard people question what U.S. troops do across the sea.

"For me, that's based on such ignorance," he said. "Our soldiers are buried on every continent in this world not because they went out with a sense of conquest ... they believed in freedom. They believed that all men and women should enjoy freedom."

He continued, "They were willing to sacrifice their lives for the peace of this world, and we remember all of them ... who gave their life so we can be free today."

Lasater described how many highways and buildings are now named after celebrities or politicians but said few people can name a Medal of Honor recipient. This, he said, denotes a major problem in America.

"I worry that we're losing touch with the best of us," he said.

He addressed those who have served and asked them to tell their children and grandchildren stories of what it's like to be in the military.

"[Your kids] need to know what true heroes are. They need to know that the meaning of the American way of life isn't the nice job or the nice house of the fat paycheck ... it's in serving," Lasater said.

On Memorial Day, Lasater said he hopes people pause to recognize the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for freedom. He encouraged everyone in attendance to try to make America a better place, saying it's important to continue fighting for rights.

"We're Americans. We're not a race, religion or creed. We're people that have been kicked out of every country on ear," Lasater said. "We came here to make a new beginning."

What unites Americans, he continued, is the basic rights we all share. Lasater said those rights are being trampled on by various agencies.

"We need to stand up and fight ...fight for the rights of those we disagree with, because that's who we are," he said. "We're Americans. I may vehemently disagree with what you say or what you believe, but I'll fight to the death to protect your right to say it."

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