The Bomb that didn't Explode

Chaplain in Iraq escapes death when rocket lands under his trailer
August 31, 2004

Navy Cmdr. Stephen Pike, one of eight Episcopal chaplains serving in Iraq, has a new sermon about faith in God for his Sunday services at Camp Fallujah.

The Episcopal chaplain for Regimental Combat Team 1 escaped death when a 107 mm. rocket soared in from about three miles away and buried itself underneath the trailer where Pike slept July 27. The rocket never detonated.

Pike said he jumped off his bed at about 3:10 a.m. when a tremendous "thud," caused by the rocket’s unspent fuel that bore down into the ground, startled him from his sleep.

"The first memory I have is being about three feet above the bed and parallel to it," said Pike, a 47-year-old priest from Louisville, Ky. "It missed the corner of the trailer where the head of my bed is on by three inches, so it missed my head by about 20 inches."
Pike, a commander in the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, is ministering to Marines, who do not have their own chaplains, doctors or corpsmen, but rely on the Navy to provide them.

One Marine familiar with ordnance told Pike that 107 mm. rockets reliably detonate on impact. "I don't know why it didn't explode," said Pike. "Many of the munitions that our enemy uses are degraded, or it could have been a faulty fuse, but the fact is much of what they shoot at us does explode."

"God preserved my life for some reason that I've yet to discover," he said. "It just wasn't my time to die, which I say with all humility because I've worked with so many wonderful young men at Bravo Medical whose time it was to die."

"Why they died and why I live -- I don't know," Pike added. "But I do know God is ultimately in charge of all things." Pike said that since the occurrence, Marines and sailors are taking a moment and think about their lives.

"Some have a purely rationalistic understanding of it, while others say I've been preserved by the very hand of God," Pike said. "Something extraordinary happened, and the fact it happened to the chaplain has pushed people to a new level of reflection about it. I certainly believe that it's one way God is using the experience."

The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright
Bishop Suffragan for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries