'Sky Soldier' chaplain in Vietnam visits 173rd Airborne Brigade as a cardinal

VICENZA, Italy ??? Roman Catholic Cardinal Edwin O???Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, visited with paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and their Families for a holiday service here Dec. 14, 2014.

O???Brien, a former U.S. Army chaplain who served a tour with the brigade in Vietnam from 1971 to 1972, was invited to speak at the 173rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion???s winter ball.

???I feel very much at home at the 173rd,??? said O???Brien. ???Serving in Vietnam was very demanding but fulfilling???I hated to leave the military service. But sometimes you have to do what you???re told to do. If I were 30 years younger I would serve all over again. ???

The cardinal serves and lives in Rome, preaching the message of courage and strength, and service before self.

O???Brien was inspiring, said 1st Lt. Matthew A. Arevian, the battalion air operations officer for 173rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, who served as the cardinal???s escort officer. ???He spoke to us a great deal about the importance of the military [vocation] and the weighty responsibility to combat unjust actions.???

He also spoke spiritual fitness, which is part of the Army???s Comprehensive Soldier and Family ??? along with physical and mental fitness – designed to increase the resiliency and enhance the performance of Soldiers and their Families.

???It is often difficult to dedicate time to [my faith] with the operation tempo in this brigade,??? said Arevian. ???But [O???Brien] was convincing in his conviction to the importance of spiritual health, whatever religion or faith one practices ??? as it relates to mission readiness.???

The cardinal, who also served as the Archbishop for the Military Services, encouraged the brigade???s paratroopers to never apologize for serving their country.

???Don???t ever be defensive or apologetic in your role as a member of the military,??? O???Brien said. ???There is a great deal of patience involved in contributing to peace. You all sacrifice your lives and give a great deal of service to your country.???