This Week at War on Coronavirus: Hope and Faith
Tom Sileo's weekly look at how the military is battling COVID-19 and how the war is affecting U.S. troops and military families around the world.
Making masks. Transporting supplies. Administering tests. Delivering food. Shielding the vulnerable. Caring for the sick. Bringing out the dead. There are no limits to the scope of sacrifices being made by brave U.S. troops and military families during the ongoing war on coronavirus.
Since February 1, the military community has been working under a “stop movement” order from the Pentagon that was set to end on May 11. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that while the order may be extended to stop the spread of COVID-19, he and other top military officials are keenly aware of the strain on military families, especially those that remain separated during a global crisis.
“We’re very conscious of the impact on the families,” Secretary Esper said on Thursday morning’s TODAY Show. “Look, they’ve borne the hardship of this just as much as the service member has.”
With more than 30,000 troops at war with the virus in the National Guard alone, leaders are trying to keep morale high amid an unprecedented period of upheaval and risk.
From @ChiefNGB: All of us in the #NationalGuard offer our condolences to every American who has lost a loved one to COVID-19. Tonight, about 30,000 of us continue to fight the coronavirus, supporting the whole-of-nation response to the pandemic. #InThisTogether pic.twitter.com/RCJe6rrDxB
— National Guard (@USNationalGuard) April 15, 2020
“This is going to change us, and change us maybe forever,” Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, told his troops earlier this week. “But we need to do the careful things like wear a face mask when you’re going to be within six feet of another person and do all the things we need to do prevent the spread of this disease. Thanks for what you’re doing.”
As I wrote last week, it’s impossible to adequately summarize the many different facets of the military’s coronavirus response. The best we can do is show snapshots, like the incredible work of the Pennsylvania National Guard in delivering more than 225,000 meals to those in need and the Maryland National Guard’s mobilization to defend virus-vulnerable nursing homes.
As of April 15, 2020, the @PANationalGuard has delivered 225,228 meals and traveled over 12,100 miles working with @PAHumanServices to support communities across the state. #InThisTogether #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/U02Qbq279m
— National Guard (@USNationalGuard) April 16, 2020
— National Guard (@USNationalGuard) April 16, 2020
Like churches and charity organizations, the military is doing God’s work in ensuring the hungry are fed and the elderly are kept safe. We are so grateful to these American heroes for stepping up to save so many innocent lives.
The valiant men and women of our military are doing these amazing things at great risk to their own health. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Pentagon had reported more than 5,000 coronavirus cases in its ranks, with more than half being U.S. service members, according to the Military Times.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt has become a symbol of the staggering toll COVID-19 is taking on the military community. A U.S. Navy sailor who had been aboard the Guam-docked ship tragically passed away earlier this week.
After this piece was originally published, the U.S. Navy identified the sailor, who is the second U.S. service member to die of COVID-19, as Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the 41-year-old sailor leaves behind a wife who also serves in the Navy.
— San Diego Union-Tribune (@sdut) April 16, 2020
As we pray for the loved ones of the first and second U.S. service members to die of coronavirus, let us also ask God to heal the USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors in intensive care and the nearly 600 who have tested positive for the virus, according to The Hill. We are praying for fast and full recoveries for each of these magnificent men and women.
Healing is possible. After 49 painstaking days in isolation, the first known U.S. service member to test positive for COVID-19 has made a full recovery in South Korea, according to the Army Times. We thank God for this miracle.
I was also struck by the below photo of a Massachusetts National Guard chaplain praying with his troops before a recent coronavirus-related mission. It reminded me of images of chaplains holding similar prayer sessions before soldiers went into battle in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Chaplain McGowan, 1-181st Infantry Reg Chaplain, addresses Army & Air Guard troops preparing for a mission fighting Covid-19. McGowan read scripture & talked about the strong caring for the weak & helping the powerless while saying a prayer before they started their mission. pic.twitter.com/I1hjH9Dc7H
— Mass. National Guard (@TheNationsFirst) April 12, 2020
If these U.S. service members can maintain hope and faith during these trying times, so can we. Guided by our love of God, our country and each other, America can and will win this war. Please join The Stream in praying for the heroes on the front lines.
Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of 8 Seconds of Courage, Brothers Forever, Fire in My Eyes and the forthcoming Three Wise Men. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.