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Soldier Experiences Protective Hand of God

While serving in Iraq, Courtney Birdsey experienced the protective hand of God, forever changing her. She says:

On one of [our] missions, my unit made a return trip to Samarra, north of Baghdad, to gather data. As we were leaving the town, the Humvee I was riding in approached a tank from behind. A soldier riding on the tank gave us an urgent "turn around" signal. We didn't hesitate to follow orders. We doubled back to Samarra, only to find ourselves surrounded by gunshots.
All of us jumped out of our vehicle and took cover—some of us running ahead and some of us staying with the Humvee. I readied my weapon and hunkered down against the back corner of the Humvee. Amid the gunfire, a black BMW sped through the street at 70 miles per hour—the Iraqi passengers inside, pointing their guns through open windows, opened fire at any American soldier within range.
We exchanged shots, and suddenly the BMW careened, out of control, toward the Humvee where I was crouched. I could see the driver slumped over the steering wheel and knew I had only seconds to make a decision. With my heart pounding and unformed prayers racing in my mind, I ran to the front of the vehicle just before the car slammed into the very place I had been just seconds before.
We were told we would have to transfer the wounded in our own vehicle. In the background, completely incongruent to the battle I was facing, I could hear the droning of Muslim prayer chants over loudspeakers.
My convoy was commanded to drive to an American safe house on the outskirts of town. The chanted prayers and the lamb-like groans of a dying man behind me echoed in my head. Finally we arrived at the safety of the compound. I looked down at my uniform, dirty and speckled with the blood of the wounded. I stepped out of the truck and dropped, shaking, to my knees, thanking God for our safety.
After this encounter, my faith took on a deeper and more personal perspective. I had felt the protective hand of God as we returned to our base physically unscathed. For my remaining time in Iraq, I began to rely heavily on my constant communication with God. Praying without ceasing became, for me, as natural as breathing.
Finally, in April 2004, my unit returned home to Colorado Springs. As the National Anthem played over the loudspeaker celebrating our arrival, I felt the tears I had been unable to cry for months stinging my eyes. I thought of my love for this country, the safety of my military family still in Iraq, the loss of those I had known, and of my family waiting in the stands to greet me.
Now back home, I strive to readjust to my life. The pace seems so hurried now. No more endless waiting under the unbearable heat of the sun that rises at 4 A.M. I coach a girls' high school softball team and encourage them in the sport I used to play. I try to capture a vision of my future by taking classes at a local college and working toward a degree. But it's not easy to move forward with five more years of my reserve duty still to go. There's always the underlying fear that I may be called back.
The visions and sounds of Iraq are never far from my thoughts. In many ways the experience there grew me up. I'm not the same person, spiritually or emotionally, that I was before I left. I still suffer from nightmares—images that come alive in my sleep, especially after a stressful day. But each time I see or hear of events in Iraq, I am reminded of how God faithfully protected me. I know now, no matter what the future brings, I'm never alone.

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