Back when I was really young, and when I knew everything, I was stationed in Cairo, Egypt. I was one of the Marine Security Guards at the U.S. Embassy there, back in the mid 1980′s.
There wasn’t much else going on in the world, so I volunteered for Marine Security Guard Duty. I missed the operation in Grenada, because only a handful of Marines participated in that, and it was very short-lived. Going on Embassy Duty, then, seemed like the only place to go if you wanted action. This may surprise you, but that is why many of us join the Marines in the first place.
My first post, after surviving the grueling (50 percent attrition!) school, was to Cairo, Egypt. I was twenty years old when I stepped onto the tarmac at Cairo’s International Airport. The first thing I noticed was that I could barely see the terminal, maybe 30 yards from where I was deplaning. It was that smoggy. Welcome to Cairo!
I spent 15 months of my life there, with some of the best Marines, my brothers, I ever had the pleasure to serve with. And although I was trained to consider threats everywhere, and size up everyone as a threat, I made a startling discovery about the Egyptian people. They were some of the nicest people that I have ever met.
|Nancy & Me|
They are a God-fearing people. Now, most of the Egyptians who worked for the Embassy on the diplomatic side of the house were Coptic Christians. At least when I was there. But most of the local guards and other regular folks were Muslims. Like the Marine House cook, and our laundry and dry cleaning valet. They observed Ramadan, and all the fasts that this entails, with nary a complaint. They were courteous, which at the time I thought, “to a fault.”
As a young and strong Marine, who knew everything, I remember being completely amazed at this peoples’ friendliness and less than warlike temperament. If any wacky stuff was going to happen here, I thought, it would have to be from outsiders or something. I remember thinking then, “These people are lovers, not warriors.” I used to make the guards do push-ups when they neglected to check a bag, or got sloppy with the metal detectors. I say “used to” because I quickly realized that most didn’t have the physical strength to do even one push-up. Physical fitness is not their bag.
So now the news is all about the streets of Cairo erupting in insurrection, and frankly I don’t know what to think. I know this has been brewing for some time. They had food riots back in 2008, for example. I can’t help the situation there except in the only way that I know how, and that is to pray for them now.
I pray then for the Egyptian people, and for the Egyptian government, and that whatever results from what is happening there now, may it be God’s will, and may it be done with a minimal amount of bloodshed. I also pray for the 25 Marines who guard our Embassy there and for the diplomats, and their families, whose lives they have been entrusted to protect. And lastly, I’m throwing up a prayer for the worried families here in the United States whose relatives are in Egypt now.
Won’t you join me, min fadlik (االرجاء, please)? Remember them at Mass tomorrow when the priest prays,
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Egyptian People and the Beatitudes, a Montage by Deacon Eric Stoltz
|Downtown Cairo, along the Nile River|