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Marines baptized before battles begin

Name: Ben Orchard

Age: 48

Branch: Navy

Job: Chaplain

Name: Lance Cpl. Michael Collins Jr.

Age: 22

Hometown: Marion, Ind.

Branch: Marines

Job: Electrician

Name: Pfc. Jacob Herigstad

Age: 19

Hometown: Camano Island, Wash.

Branch: Marines

Job: Bulk fuel specialist


CAMP SOLOMON ISLANDS, Kuwait—Before the baptism, 16 Marines wearing flak jackets and carrying gas masks form a semi-circle. Lance Cpl. Michael Collins Jr. and Pfc. Jacob Herigstad, wearing flip-flops and green T-shirts, set down their rifles and wait.

Chaplain Ben Orchard begins.

"Lord here's the water," Orchard says, standing in a back lot at Camp Solomon Islands, a base with about 1,400 Marines, most of them in the 6th Engineer Support Battalion. "We are going to baptize these men who have expressed their faith in their savior, Jesus Christ."

Orchard, a Navy chaplain, spent 2 { years on the USS Constellation and didn't perform a single baptism on the aircraft carrier. Here in the desert, with everyone preparing to attack Iraq, he has baptized five Marines in the past six weeks. He performs the ceremony in a 3,000-gallon rubber storage container filled with three feet of water.

Collins climbs into the water.

"Michael Collins, one of our brothers in Christ, is here today to declare his faith," Orchard says.

Collins, 22, of Marion, Ind., crosses his arms in front of his chest and squeezes his nose. Though baptized as a child, Collins feels he was too young to fully understand it.

"Have you placed your faith and your trust and your hope in Him and Him alone, for your eternal salvation?" Orchard asks.

"Sure have," Collins replies.

Orchard can relate to these young Marines with rebellious pasts. He was a hippie in the 1970s, a hardcore partier who wore his hair past his shoulders as a student at Idaho State University. Then he rode the pendulum the other way, and he felt only one calling in life: to become a pastor.

"Michael Collins on the basis of your faith, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

Next, Jacob Herigstad climbs into the water.

"Jake Herigstad, another brother in the Lord, another good Marine," Orchard says. "He has declared his faith in Christ."

Herigstad went to church with his parents when he was growing up in Camano Island, Wash. When he got into high school, he says he did some stupid things, "tons of things."

But he started a Bible study group when he arrived at Camp Solomon Islands, which has evolved into a prayer group of 30.


(Jeff Seidel is a reporter for the Detroit Free Press)


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): facis+baptism