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Military chaplain finds he's learning life's lessons from the troops

FORT RILEY, Kan.—Capt. Masaki Nakazono, chaplain for 1st Battalion, 13th Armor, has only been in the Army for a year.

The 34-year-old former church minister knows that eventually the soldiers in the battle tank unit he has been assigned to are going to need his guidance. But for now, he is the one seeking guidance, learning life's lessons every day from the soldiers.

"Take advantage of every moment you have with your family—as we talk, that's what soldiers talk to me about," Nakazono said. "I see a lot of soldiers with pictures of their loved ones in their combat helmets."

Seeing is believing.

Nakazono has put a picture of his wife and two children in his helmet and a family photo album in his rucksack.

"When you have a little bit of down time and you want to write a letter," he says, "it's nice to see their faces." That's another thing he learned from the soldiers.

Segments of the battalion, part of 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, are leaving for Iraq every day, and Nakazono will be going with them.

"I've not heard anyone have a sense that they're not coming back," he says. "It will be my job to make sure the soldiers see me as a person they can trust, as someone who is trying to understand them.

"They must realize that they are not going to Iraq alone."


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