Oneida Salvation Army Encounters Hurting Iraq Vet


by Captain Susan Ramsay
The Salvation Army
123 Farrier Ave., Oneida, NY 13421
Dec. 16, 2009

I often wonder how many people who donate to The Salvation Army realize how their money affects the lives of others. Here is one story I would like to share.

The last weekend in September we held our 125th Anniversary Celebration. The Oneida Corps was open that Saturday morning, September 26, for an Open House. A young man in his mid-twenties entered wearily. He was quiet, not having much to say; however, I learned he had come to Oneida to visit friends and they would not let him stay with them so he had spent the night in the park. The young man, whom I will call Steven, had served three tours in Iraq and had been discharged from the Armed Forces just six months earlier. Steven had no money for a hotel room for the night or even for a bus ticket home. His appearance brought me back to my serving at Ground Zero after 9/11. It was there I saw many people going in to help search for survivors and hours later returning with a somber despairing look in their eyes. I knew we needed to help Steven.

The women of the Oneida Corps manned the Karing Kitchen that day. They prepared Steven a large plate of ham, cabbage, potatoes, and vegetables with a peach-pear cobbler for dessert. I began searching for a room for Steven to stay the night; but it proved difficult as most hotels were already booked due to the PGA Golf Tournament. Thankfully, we found Steven a room. The women gave Steven another plate of food to take with him.

The next morning Steven was picked up at the hotel for Sunday services. We learned during the service Steven had not set foot in a church in over six months because he had broken one of the ten commandments and felt God would not forgive him. While Steven was serving his country, he was required to shoot a child who had been strapped with a bomb and was coming towards the gate. His superiors were yelling at him to “shoot him, shoot him, shoot him now!” Unless you have been in that situation, you can only image how Steven felt -- shooting a child. But God does love Steven and he was reassured God offers forgiveness. Does Steven realize that by taking one life, he saved many and God will not hold him accountable because he made a pledge to protect and serve and sometimes in that protecting and serving we come across obstacles that go against our beliefs? But it is by faith, knowing that God stands beside us, even in our darkest moments, that we are forgiven.

After the worship service we gave Steven another meal. We drove Steven to the bus station, got him a ticket and gave him provisions for his ten-hour bus ride. As we stood together in the bus station, Steven and I had the chance to pray together.

Steven’s story has made an impact in my life, not only as a pastor but also as an American citizen and as a Christian. We all need to realize that there are many “Stevens” in our community. Won’t you be a helping hand to The Salvation Army in their efforts to help other “Stevens.”

May this Christmas season be a blessing for you!

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