Veterans in Moline say faith sometimes is easier in a foxhole

MOLINE — A night of reflection on faith and military service turned out to be a family affair: a DePorter family affair.

Steve DePorter and his sons, Nate, Justin and Aaron, gave compelling accounts of their military service in the Gulf War and, in Aaron’s case, Afghanistan to an audience of 100 men, half military veterans, Oct. 8 at Christ the King Church in Moline.

Along with Tom Marxen, a Vietnam War veteran, and Jack Carey, who served in Turkey in the Vietnam era, the DePorters explained how their sometimes harrowing experiences called upon their beliefs and strengthened their faith in God.

The veterans’ speeches were the latest installment of the parish’s “Let’s Go Fishing” program, designed to provide lasting spiritual nourishment for men of all ages and stages of spiritual development.

MARXEN, NOW a retired Moline police officer, explained that he was drafted in 1966. In July 1967 he was sent to Vietnam.

“When I was drafted, I was 18 years old and away from home for the first time,” Marxen said.

He decided not to attend church. “My long- and short-term plans were the same; to survive for two years and go home,” he explained.

Marxen was assigned to duty which required him to resupply ammunition and fuel to men in combat. It affected him greatly.

Before the rapt audience, Marxen read from a calendar that served as a diary for his adventures. Close calls, mortar attacks, brushes with death filled the days. It changed him and his beliefs.

“My faith had taken an astonishing U-turn since I entered the Army,” he said. “For the first time in my life I was really paying attention in Mass; I even listened to the priest,” Marxen chuckled.

HIS FAITH more developed, Marxen returned home to take up a job with the Moline police. Here, his faith was tested again. Dealing primarily with society’s bad actors, Marxen said it was becoming harder to focus on his Christian values.

“It was then I became more involved in my Catholic faith,” he said.

He was tested again a decade ago when he survived a colon-cancer scare. Reflecting on his life, Marxen said, “Faith in a foxhole is pretty easy. When I’m not in a foxhole, when things are going good, that’s when it becomes harder.”

The rest of the evening was devoted to the DePorters.

STEVE DePorter, 56, enlisted in the Army in 1974. He intended to become a medic.

But he went to airborne school and began jumping out of planes. He told the group he said a quick prayer each time before jumping.

His talk followed by son Nate, 29, who now works at the Rock Island Arsenal. Nate joined the National Guard when he was 17. He was shipped to Iraq to be part of a platoon to protect the prime minister of Iraq.

“I went with a ‘revenge’ attitude, Nate said. “I saw a lot of things that were character building and some I’d like to forget.”

But it was his awesome responsibility that drove him closer to his faith. As a platoon commander, he felt his responsibility to the men under his control.

Justin DePorter, 26, followed with his story. He, too, joined the National Guard in 1999, and also at the tender age of 17. He grew up quickly.

Justin explained he was part of the team that guarded the “Deck of Cards,” the code name for the worst members of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.

“I prayed all the time because I was young and scared, thinking of my wife and daughter back home, Justin said.

The next “Let’s Go Fishing” event, “Father/Son and Yes the Holy Spirit,” is scheduled for Dec. 10. For more information, contact Craig Pirmann at (309) 792-2011 or Sister Charlotte Seubert at (309) 762-4634, ext. 207.

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