Westmont Magazine Back on the Home Front
by Lt. Cmdr. Julie Ohman Kellogg ’88
As I write this it has been several months since I returned home from my deployment with the Marines to Kuwait and Iraq. In some ways it seems that I was never gone, and in some ways our lives will never be the same. Deployments are a way of life for many in the military, but it was something new to me as a pediatrician.
We prepared for months before we left, and now, in retrospect, it was something that loomed over our heads. I worried about leaving my husband, Todd, and our two sons, Nicholas, age 7, and Noah, age 2. They in turn worried about me. When we told Nicholas that I would very likely have to go he told me, “Well, just tell them about Jesus.” It took me aback for a moment as I realize that I could do just that in the middle of this war. I also came to realized in a very real way that God loves my family far more than I could ever love them, as impossible as that may seem. It was very comforting to know that God would guide them, protect them and give them the grace to face whatever happened, just as he would do the same for me.
The three months in Kuwait and the one month in Iraq were among the hardest in my life. The living conditions were extremely arduous and so much was out of our control. I can’t describe in words how ubiquitous the sand was, or how threatening the sandstorms were.
In the midst of it all, though, I felt God’s presence in such a real way. We moved from camp to camp during our first week in Kuwait and had to pack and unpack our seabags. I mistakenly changed the combination of my lock and struggled with it for over 24 hours. We were preparing to leave for another camp and I needed to be able to lock my seabag. There was no way to replace my lock at that point and in a moment of frustration I said, “Lord, I know this seems so trivial but I NEED this lock to work.” The lock fell open in my hands and I felt such a clear presence of God saying to me, “Don’t worry, I am here even in Kuwait and will be with you throughout all of this.” I continued to feel His presence throughout the gas drills, our many trips to the bunkers as SCUDs and Patriot missiles flew overhead, our travels through Iraq and our journey home.
My fond memories are of the people that we met. The Marines that we cared for were true heroes and each had his own amazing story to tell. I was proud that we treated the injured Iraqi prisoners of war with the same care that we treated our own men. I was privileged to meet wonderful Iraqi civilians, and will always remember the little boy who died after heroic attempts to save him. It is my hope that the love of Jesus was indeed shown in the midst of a war and that in time the Iraqi people will come to know the freedom that we enjoy.