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Army chaplain thankful for 'blessed life'

Capt. James D. Murray IV told the congregation of Grace Church of Aiken on Sunday evening that he leads a “blessed life” helping people with “so many needs” as an Army chaplain.

Murray is based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

He and his wife, Ashley, and their two children, 5-year-old Margo and infant JD, live in a house on the base.

“We can hear cannons and machine gunfire from our home,” Murray said.

Murray is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, whose members are known as the Iron Rakkasans.

He previously was in an aviation unit, and he served in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013.

The 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment “is the most deployed battalion in the Army,” Murray said. “They are viewed, at least from my commander’s perspective, as the most elite killers in the regular Army. They are the ones that the Army looks toward to really do the bad business.”

Murray described the soldiers he works with as tough, strong and disciplined. But, he added, they also experience a lot of anxiety and stress, and they are hurting.

Alcoholism, divorce, infidelity and post-traumatic stress disorder are among their problems, he said.

“I’ve had guys tell me that they had the gun in their mouth and that they took it out and didn’t know why,” Murray said. “I’ve had guys who have cut their wrists.”

Murray tries to assist and comfort soldiers facing difficulties in a variety of ways.

He does little things like give them candy and cookies. On a more serious level, Murray teaches couples how to strengthen their bonds and leads classes about suicide prevention.

“I’ve had guys being accused of spousal abuse come into my office and by the end of the counseling session, I’ve led them to the lord,” he said.

Murray also conducts funerals and does death notifications.

“It’s really hard and really challenging, but it’s a great honor,” he said of the latter.

Murray has a boots-on-the ground approach to his job.

“It means that as a chaplain, I am there with the soldiers,” he said. “When they go out on the range, go out on a road march or whatever they’re doing, I try to place myself with them. I don’t sit in my office and wait for them to come to me. I’m there with them trying to connect with them.”

Murray’s wife is involved in his ministry, and she spoke briefly about her role providing support to soldier’s spouses and other family members during Murray’s presentation at Grace Church of Aiken. Margo also contributes her time and effort.

“Ashley and I tell Margo that she is a military minister of the gospel and that she is a part of the chaplaincy as much as we are,” Murray said. “She doesn’t do the preaching, and she doesn’t go out in the field environment. But she is telling people about Christ. She is reaching out to encourage people.”

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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