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Marines headed for Afghanistan baptized in ocean off Camp Pendleton


A group of Marines headed for Afghanistan underwent baptism in the ocean off Camp Pendleton, an area normally used for amphibious assault training.

The 29 Marines, all volunteers, are reservists assigned to the Ohio-based 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment. The baptisms, done Sunday morning by the battalion chaplain, are part of Operation Sword of the Spirit, a program meant to prepare the battalion for duty in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province.

The baptism service was attended by Lt. Col. Lawrence Kaifesh, the battalion commander, who called each of the 29 Marines forward for the symbolic immersion at Gold Beach.

"The spiritual and religious foundation that we're able to develop here allows us to perform our job  the way we need to in a very challenging environment," Kaifesh said.

The baptisms were performed by Navy Chaplain Lt. William Hlavin and Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Eric Dickerson.

"I believe and trust that God will take me and my fellow Marines back home safely," Lance Cpl. Yeke Sumo said in a statement released by the Marine Corps.

Forty-six Marines and two Navy corpsmen from the battalion were killed in Iraq -- 14 on a single-day, one of the largest one-day losses of any Marine battalion.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Chaplain Lt. William Hlavin and Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Eric Dickerson baptize a Marine. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Comments () | Archives (11)

I thank the Marines who underwent water baptism and I pray many more will follow suit.

God bless the US Marine Corps!

Bless these Marines Lord!

What a Marvelous thing to do: being baptized in the beautiful ocean that is normally used for amphibious assault training.

I know the Lord will watch over our Marvelous Marines!

Lord go with these men protect and guide them and bring them all home safe and sound along with all of our other brave men and women serving in our military. I ask in Jesus name Amen!!!......... This is a great story to have in the paper not enough stories like this are written or shared

God bless each and everyone of these hero's.

In every war, both sides believe the gods are on their side.


What a crock. Do they also tell them that they won't go to hell for killing innocent women and children? God must be on our side, we seem to be paying him to do so.

What a crock!!!

What an utter disgrace!

I am a former Marine Corps Officer, and learned to
respect my country, it's Constitution, the Marine Corps,
AND the freedom NOT to have the idiocy of religious fundamentalism shoved down my throat by my battalion

Crazy Islamic Fascism cannot be fought with crazy Christian Fundamentalism.

How many people have been slaughtered over the centuries over the question of which group had the best imaginary friend?

The U.S. Marine Corps, in which I served, was certainly not the Marine Corps in which this Lt. Col Kaifesh is disgracing.

Robert J. Rosener

All those who posted on August 13th - You have no understanding about what occurred here. 29 soldiers REQUESTED to be baptized by a chaplain who understands the consolation that forgiveness offered through baptism brings. No one "shoved [religious fundamentalism] down the throats" of anyone. Americans have the right to religious freedom.

The nation's military personnel have, and have always had, access to chaplains and religious worship. 29 soldiers from a battalion of over 500 felt called to faith. The chaplain decided to use the most convenient (and large - symbolic of dying to sin and rising to new life) water available for baptism.

There is no "agenda" here. Just a chaplain ready to serve those asking to be baptized, and working for peace.

As a Marine Officer and the Public Affairs Officer who covered this event I would like to say that this amazing event was completely voluntary. In fact the event started with a hand-full of Marines who approached the chaplain to do it. As others heard about it they all got on board.

The Chaplain Corps and the services they provide are beyond exceptional. The Chaplain is not only a religious advisor but a counselor to those who may not believe in any religion.

I don't see how one event where 29 out of 800 Marines participated in can be seen as fundamentalism.

The Battalion Commander, religion aside, was there to support his Marines and nothing more. Weather supporting the 29 participants or the 769 who didn't he was in his shorts standing in the water supporting his Marines and his Chaplain where others may not have.

Building trust in our Chaplains when our troops need them most in this era of PTSD and TBI is more important than ever. If you can't see this please take another look.

Thank you K. Kunze for relaying your first hand experience of the event.

I know Chaplain Hlavin, and his heart is for his people, whether they be the congregation he pastors, or the battalion he serves. He and his men are daily held up in prayer. ***

This country allows personal freedom, so it is not anyone's place to insist that others ascribe to a specific religion or faith, including the religion of "atheists, humanists, rationalists, Brights, doubters, agnostics, and other non-believers." (Atheists United homepage)

Those whose desire is to "assist people who have been infected with the virus of fundamentalist religion" (R. Rosener on Atheist United Member page) might lean toward seeing some conspiracy or 'agenda' in this event. The only agenda was to express personal faith.

***If you don't believe that prayer has any power or meaning, that is your right. And it is my right to believe it does. So I will continue to practice my faith and pray for these men.


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