Rob Baker

Rob Baker stands beside a framed tribute to the 35 soldiers from his battalion who died during their deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

STONEWALL, La -- Rob Baker had finished his theological studies, and thought he'd be a prison chaplain. Then came a chance to be a chaplain in the Army -- the job of meeting the spiritual needs and bringing emotional support to the troops. He would be battle tested in Iraq.

A framed tribute hang on a wall of his home with the names of 25 soldiers his battalion lost in battle. About half of them from his Louisiana unit based at Fort Humbug. The other half were from New York City.

"Their battalion was next door to the Twin Towers that got destroyed," Rob says.

They would be attached to Rob's infantry brigade for the deployment, beginning in 2004. In an ironic twist, the battalions were on opposing sides during the U.S. Civil War.

"We wind up in Iraq together fighting global Global War on Terrorism, united." Rob says.

Seven of the soldiers were lost in a massive roadside bombing. Chaplain Col. Rob Baker would need his own chaplain.

"I did seek their care at times when I when they became so overwhelming for me, because they were my friends, they were my fellow soldiers,." he said.

"I was on no illusion that we were going we were gonna come back unscathed because we were fighting a determined enemy," Rob continued.

"We were under fire all the time. We'd get rocketed, mortared every day and then at night. Yeah, and, and we go outside the wire, you get sniper fire or IED's, he said.

Rob would earn a Bronze Star and other high medals for meritorious service in battle. And to think, he nearly did not live past early childhood.

"I had bone cancer first two, two and a half years, my life, and back then they didn't have any treatment for it," Rob explained. "They said, at times, you could hear me screaming, almost five miles away, I was in so much pain.

"They kept telling my mom and dad that this kid's gonna die. You're gonna lose him. They said even if a miracle happens -- which it's not -- but even if it does, he'll be crippled the rest of his life in a Shriner's crippled children's home," Rob said.

"But God miraculously healed me," he added.

"When I found out about the Army chaplaincy, I said this is it. This is what God left me here for. This is my purpose in life," Rob said. "I'm very proud of what I did. I'm very grateful that's what God called me to do."

Rob came back from the 18-month deployment, and his unit was reactivated right away to help with Hurricane Katrina. And then in 2010, he was activated during Gulf oil disaster. He wound up being activated for five years.

Rob spent a total of 25 years in the Army, and the National Guard. He also worked 30 years for the state health department.


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