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Gi Turns To Islam To Find God-u.s. Army Sgt.

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GI turns to Islam to find God

When U.S. Army Sgt. Matt Fernandes landed in the desert ahead of the invasion of Iraq, he knew little about the country and virtually nothing about Islam.


But he grew intrigued by the hospitality and generosity of the Iraqi people and began to reconsider his beliefs about them and their faith. The more time the Oakland native spent in Iraq, first fighting his way north to Baghdad to seize the airport and later fighting insurgents, the more he questioned his own faith and theirs.


When his time at war was over, Fernandes would eschew Catholicism and become a follower of Islam.


World War II journalist Ernie Pyle wrote the famous axiom, "There are no atheists in foxholes.'' But even Pyle wouldn't have guessed that 50 years later there would, according to the Army, be nearly 1,700 soldiers of Islamic faith wearing the khaki, green and camouflage-brown uniforms of the U.S. military.


It should come as no surprise that faith and salvation were on the minds of more than a few soldiers when Fernandes, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, arrived in Saudi Arabia before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.


At the desert base, a U.S. Army Ranger chaplain filled a bathtub with water and urged soldiers to be baptized as born-again Christians. More than a few did it.


Fernandes, now 23, wasn't among them. Although it was a time of tension and uncertainty among the troops, he didn't feel faith embraced under fire was true faith.


"I felt it was wrong to become religious just because something bad might happen,'' he said. "I didn't want to be pushed into that."


And so it was that Fernandes took his unrepentant soul into battle, seeing combat, often bloody, in at least half a dozen places from Ramadi to Baghdad. No one in his unit was ever hit or injured, but they did their share of killing.

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Edited by al-malabari

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