A small network of missionaries for Marines says the strongest weapon against enemy forces is the Word of God.
This Memorial Day, we remember those who've paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Valor and sacrifice typically top the list when honoring the attributes of our fallen heroes. Yet, the non-profit Tun Tavern Fellowship is helping any Marine willing to walk in relationship with Jesus Christ, renew their strength in the Lord.
Lieutenant Colonel John Dalby has been a U.S. Marine for 19-years. He serves at the Pentagon as Liaison Officer for Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Lt. Col. Dalby says his faith is foundational, which is why he also serves on the non-profit's board of directors.
"The Marine Corps culture is one of service," said Lt. Col. Dalby.
He went on to explain how the Marines' culture is very similar to Christianity, which is best articulated by Gen. Charles Krulak, 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps – "The Marine Corps leadership and values go hand-in-hand with the biblical model of leadership and character God gives us through Jesus Christ."
Dalby says he remembers how strong the presence of God was to him while fighting on the battlefield.
"I remember my first deployment to Iraq as a young second Lieutenant," said Dalby. "I was quoting those memory verses I remembered from my youth, especially Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) 'Do not worry about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'"
While serving in some of the deadliest regions of war, Lt. Col. Dalby was able to be a force for good: leading Bible studies, ministering to his men and teaching them how to live in relationship with God.
"I mean, this was in Iraq with guys who were going on combat patrols," said Dalby. "So, we'd pray together and open the Word. For 7-months I got to lead a Bible study in my unit."
Numbers from the National Institutes of Health show almost 70-percent of our military members claim to be a Christian. However, living out and exercising that faith as a U.S. Marine is much less common.
"Honestly, I was not walking out my faith the way I was claiming to be a Christian," said Sgt. Major Mark Byrd.
Byrd says he's a prime example of a service member who wrestled with his identity and his faith until he was approached and held accountable by a higher-ranking officer.
"It was probably 7-years into my career that I came across a Marine who challenged me in regard to my faith," said Sgt. Major Byrd. "We were headed to the Mediterranean Sea for six months and he asked me, 'Okay, so you're a Christian? How do you plan to practice your faith?' He took me under his way – discipled me and taught me how to read the Bible and live out my faith."
After growing in his faith-walk, Sgt. Major Byrd said he was asked to be a missionary for Marines by the director of Tun Tavern Fellowship, a non-profit paying homage to the birthplace of Marines. It's a network of Christian Marines discipling one another in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who serve say its lessons are invaluable when fighting in the trenches.
"Service Members in general, and particularly Marines, do have a unique need because you're faced with the reality your life could be on the line at any given moment," said Lt. Col. Dalby.
Through weekly Bible studies or informal gatherings around the kitchen table, Marines worldwide have been able to strengthen their faith, their families, and show their brothers and sisters in arms what it means to be a person of refined character.
"Especially for those who are professing Christians and really believe it, there's nothing more comforting to know the men and women to your left and right are a believer, a Christian."
Lt. Col Dalby says for those able to give, whether it be through prayer or financial support, Tun Tavern Fellowship has several opportunities you can participate and be encouraged by. You can learn more through their website, or by visiting their Facebook page.
Do you or a family member serve in the United States Armed Forces? Do you have questions about the unique challenges faced by the military and their families? Would you like special devotions geared to military life?