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`Preacher' drives a truck, hopes for the best

NAME: Lance Cpl. Timothy Edwards

AGE: 24

HOMETOWN: Fremont, Wis.

BRANCH: Marines

ROLE: Driver

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CAMP VIPER, southern Iraq—Lance Cpl. Timothy Edwards wrote his nickname on his helmet: Preacher.

Edwards, 24, of Fremont, Wis., is a youth minister and plans to become a pastor.

"I get a lot of mail from the kids I work with," Edwards says. "That's the stuff that cheers me up the most. The kids remember me and tell me how good I was. It makes me feel good about what I was doing.

"I was working at summer camp this last summer," Edwards says. "One of my old pastors who had transferred to a different church was looking for a youth director. He knew I was planning on going to the seminary. He wanted to know if I'd like to get my feet wet and wondered if I wanted to be their youth director for a couple of years. Firsthand experience is even better than getting an education. I was trying it out. I really like it."

He went to college thinking he was going to work as a chemist, but he loved working with youngsters.

"When I graduated from college, I was undecided what to do," Edwards says. "I kinda wanted to follow the rest of my family. My dad was a Marine, and my uncle was a Marine, and grandpa was a Marine. I figured, `What the heck, I'll try it.' "

His grandfather fought in World War II, while his father and uncle were in Vietnam.

"They didn't say a lot about their experiences until the day I got called up," Edwards says. "All of a sudden, they started telling me a whole lot of stuff that happened to them. They gave me little tips of advice: Keep your head between your legs and don't be afraid to get up and do stuff."

Edwards is a truck driver assigned to Charlie Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion. He drives everything from 7-ton trucks to dump trucks.

"These new trucks are kinda like driving a car," Edwards says. "It's all push button. It's pretty nice. The old trucks are a little trickier. Stuff breaks, and you have to be semi-mechanically oriented. You can fix it."

He says that in Iraq he daydreams about war scenarios.

"What would I do if a 12-year-old kid were running after you? Would you shoot him? I've thought of hundreds of outcomes," he says. "Some are good; some are bad. It could go wrong; it could go right."

Edwards tries to maintain a Christian walk in a place where profanity is as common as sand.

"I can't judge other people for swearing," Edwards says. "Sometimes, it's just the way they vent their frustrations."

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

ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): USIRAQ-EDWARDS

Iraq

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