FORT WORTH (BP) -- After 40 days and 40 nights in the Kuwaiti desert, the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment crossed the line of departure into harm's way in Iraq on March 20, 2003 -- the start of what would become known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Photo by Matt Miller/SWBTS
"We had the first man killed in action in the whole war in our unit and fought what many believe is the most decisive battle in the fall of Baghdad," said Carey Cash, a Navy chaplain assigned to the regiment.
Yet in the midst of physical war, a spiritual battle for the lives of these Marines was already underway as God brought revival to the unit. In the battalion of 1,000 men, Cash said, "about one out of four had a profound spiritual awakening."
At the beginning of the deployment, Cash asked the men, "Who's thinking about baptism and would like to explore what it means to follow Christ? Join me for a 12-week study."
Six of the 12 weeks took place in the Kuwaiti desert. During those 40 days and nights, Cash conducted classes and counseled daily with Marines as they wrestled with the claims of Christ on their lives. Just before crossing into combat, 60 Marines were baptized as new Christians. Several others were baptized while in combat, including one inside Saddam Hussein's palace on Palm Sunday.
In all, more than 250 men either made professions of faith or rededicated their lives to Christ. In addition to those baptized during the deployment, many more were baptized in their churches upon returning to the U.S.
The experience served as one of many points along the way where Cash felt an affirmation of God's calling on His life. His 2003 book "A Table in the Presence" chronicles the story of these spiritual victories.
Call to ministry
However, a medical crisis nearly prevented him from serving in the military.
Cash grew up in a military family, his father a career Naval officer and fighter pilot who served as a commanding officer at the prestigious "Top Gun" flight school. Military blood always coursed through Cash's veins, but football was his passion early on.
Cash received a football scholarship as an offensive lineman to The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, but during his final season, doctors found an inoperable tumor at the base of his brain stem.
"The rug was completely ripped out from under my wife and me," Cash recalled. "I'd always identified myself physically, and the very thing where I'd always found my identity was gone. But it was during that season of incredible struggle that I began to hear God's call to ministry.
"All this is happening at the same time. I've got this issue going on with my head, this deep sense of calling to ministry that I'm feeling certain about ... Read More