AT THE beginning of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to “carry out a special military operation.” (1) In January, news channels all around the world flashed the same satellite images across screens. The images showed at least 100,000 Russian troops and military equipment piling up along the border of Ukraine. After being put in the hot seat and questioned about Russia’s actions, Putin claimed he had no invasion plans. A few short weeks later Putin demanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an intergovernmental organization built on alliances, to stop expanding. Putin also demanded NATO pull back its borders to where they were in 1997. The response from NATO allies was negative.
If you are up to date with current news, you likely heard or watched the horror that took place as Ukraine civilians were being displaced from their homes and communities, practically overnight. Bombings began on February 24, 2022, when Putin announced he was launching an assault. The assault was a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Bombs were going off like fireworks on a celebration day. Except this was no celebration. It was a nightmare. Immediately, out of basic empathy and humanistic hospitality, neighboring countries opened their borders to help those fleeing Ukraine. NATO activated its response unit for the first time in history, and the United States also responded by sending troops both on land and by sea to NATO countries bordering Ukraine.
Milo Curtis, a United States Navy Chaplain, was one of those who answered the call to go. Currently, he is aboard Navy Destroyer USS Porter in the Mediterranean Sea. He and a little over 300 enlisted sailors and naval officers are out patrolling the European waters. As the navy destroyer ship navigates waters near the war-torn land, Curtis is solely responsible for shepherding the 300+ peoples’ fears, worries, and emotions onboard. As you can imagine, the pressure he feels is enormous.
Most people healthily deal with stress by going for a run or going for a drive. Maybe even playing a round of golf. However, that is simply not an option for Curtis and his fellow crewmates. Without many tangible and physical ways to deal with pressures and stressors, Curtis has practiced setting his gaze far beyond himself and his circumstances. Instead, he has set his mind on higher things and has the significant role of leading others to do the same. Each evening like clockwork, a subtle crackling is heard over the ship’s 1MC PA system, followed by a heartfelt prayer from Curtis’ mouth.
CURTIS PRAYED THE FOLLOWING PRAYER ON THE CREW’S FIRST NIGHT OUT AT SEA:
“Let us pray. Lord a week ago we did not anticipate being on this ship and out at sea embracing the mission that has been laid out for us. But this is not a surprise to you.
And because you weren’t surprised by this, you have prepared us in ways we may not have anticipated. You have established within us the qualities, gifts, and talents needed to do our job with excellence and to do it in a way that builds our team and fortifies our resolve.
So I pray for my shipmates and our families back home. I ask that as we lean forward, may you grant wisdom in moments of decision; strength in moments of weariness; sleep in moments of restlessness, friendship when we feel lonely; and hope when we feel despair tempting our minds and hearts.
I pray this in the name of the One who has destined us to be freedom’s champion. Amen.”
As the only chaplain on board, Curtis’ voice has become honey, soothing his fellow crewmates amidst terror and uncertainty. Although it is challenging to lead amidst the utter chaos surrounding the Russian-Ukraine crisis, Curtis has confidently answered the call to serve, knowing that he was created for such a time as this and that his faith will see him through.
Milo, his wife Bethany, and their children have been stationed in Rota, Spain, for the last four years. Growing up in Moore County, Bethany is a byproduct of this very community, and for that, we feel proud. The Curtis family has sacrificed their lives to serve and protect this nation. Three bedrock principles the Navy was built on are honor, courage, and commitment. (2) We so clearly see those values on display within the Curtis family, and we salute them for their service and sacrifices made. GN