U.S. Navy Chaplain Ryan Krause saw God in war.
Like the time he led 1,200 Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Marines had no idea what to expect when they pushed in. There could be missiles; there could be gas, he said.
So he prayed for his men, and he saw God’s hands over his battalion, shielding them. God said to him: “Not one of your Marines will be lost.”
And no Marine in his battalion died during that initial attack. All other battalions had significant losses, he said. Even on the battlefield, there is the “midst of peace” and there are miracles, he said.
Another time a missile crashed through a church roof on base, planted itself in the cement floor between the pastor’s feet – the top still spinning. But it did not explode; though it should have, he said.
“One of the things about military people is we love to share stories,” Krause said. He looks forward to sharing his stories — and hearing those of the many other veterans of the Central Kenai Peninsula — during the God and Country Rally this afternoon.
Soldotna High School will host the rally in its auditorium at 6 p.m., where Krause will speak about his 16 years serving as a U.S. Navy Combat Medic and 17 years serving the ministry.
The rally will celebrate the country’s birthday and all the soldiers who have died defending its people’s health and spirituality, rally organizer Dave Carey said. It will honor war veterans, first responders, fire fighters, police and other emergency providers too, he said.
Krause’s speech is titled “Enduring Freedom.”
“We want to have a ra-ra-time and we want to get people charged up about serving our country and serving God and being a good American,” Krause said.
Since Krause joined the U.S. Navy out of high school in 1990 he has competed three combat tours.
He served in Somalia, in Iraq twice, first with the Marine Corps Engineer Support Battalion, and a second tour in Iraq.
In March, the U.S. Navy commissioned him a Chaplain and he will return to the Marines for three years.
“This community very much knows the commitment that people in the service provide,” Carey said, and Krause knows that personally. Krause said his time in the battlefield gave him an uncommon perspective.
“I can look at each one of (the veterans in the community) and I can sit with them, and I can understand them,” he said. All he has to do is look in their eyes, he said.
During the rally, war veterans can share their experiences with him, and he can share his stories, he said.
Those who have not served in the war might benefit, too. “It’s almost like they get a sneak peak under the hood,” he said.
War strips humans to their barest character. Soldiers act selflessly, and many have died. Hearing their stories — for war veterans and nonveterans — is inspirational, he said.
“There’s a lot of people that aren’t really fans of the military … and I understand that and that’s fine,” he said, but Americans must remember those who have sacrificed.
“Freedom is not free,” he said. “It costs our people lives.”
Carey said sharing the stories is like playing music. War pulls soldiers across the world. They fight, and when the return, they have experiences unique to their service. When they are together, they share those experiences, he said.
“You make music,” he said.
Carey said having Krause in the community is a rare opportunity. The hand of God works through him, he said. “He is a rope, a life preserver,” he said.
And he is a “yes” man, Carey said. Krause is a modern-day Johnny Cash.
Carey volunteers as a minister at Wildwood Correctional Facility, and the inmates heard that Krause was visiting. Many of them wanted to speak with him, but arranging visitors is difficult.
The inmates asked Monday, and, by Thursday, the prison approved Krause, he said.
“This is not something that happens in bureaucracy of government,” he said.
The inmates need scripture to change, and they need it from an authentic person like Krause, he said.
“We’re going because we want to hear an authentic, humane person speak the truth,” he said.
Either war veteran, firefighter or civilian, people can relate to Krause, he said.
“All of us are veterans of this life,” Carey said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.