cover image A Bridge in Babylon: Stories of a Military Chaplain in Iraq

A Bridge in Babylon: Stories of a Military Chaplain in Iraq

Owen R. Chandler. Chalice, $16.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-8272-0317-4

Military chaplain Chandler debuts with a frank, faith-filled account of military life during his 2016 deployment in Iraq. Chandler was pastor of a Disciples of Christ church in Tucson when his Army Reserve unit was mobilized; Chandler was tasked with providing counseling and religious support to troops and overseeing the development of a resiliency center, which provides soldiers a space to rest and recuperate. He never saw combat, but was acutely aware of its effects on his comrades as he counseled them wherever he met them, even in a latrine at 2 a.m. Chandler is candid about the loneliness of enforced celibacy, and eloquent about his initial fear of harm: “My mind tormented me with mini-movies playing scenes of all the ways in which I was going to be brutally killed.” He describes the “deceptively safe” Camp Taji and daily moments of moral questioning, particularly about the Iraqi soldiers and contractors killed by suicide bombers while securing the base. A particularly affecting chapter shares how counseling appointments quadrupled during December as soldiers connected with family and considered their lives post-deployment. Chandler’s affecting memoir testifies to the traumatic cost of perpetual war. (June)