USS PELELIU – During deployments, service members often find outlets to help them cope with the stresses that come with being away. Some opportunities include the gym, music or religion.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, have recently formed Darkhorse Disciples, a lay-led bible study, aboard the USS Peleliu. While infantry Marines founded the program, servicemembers of any rank or job are welcome to attend.
“My role as the chaplain is to facilitate the faith of others,” said Lt. Cmdr. David D. Dinkins, chaplain, 15th MEU. “This was a great opportunity to not only find space where they can meet daily but also to participate and be a part of the group,” added the 46-year-old native of Ft. Worth, Texas.
The group started in June during the unit’s first at-sea period, PHIBRON-MEU Interoperability Training. However, they didn’t find a permanent location until the start of this deployment and are now able to gather daily to talk about the scriptures they are reading.
Dinkins made it clear that the group’s emphasis is on discipleship.
“It’s a grunt-led bible study, but it’s open to anyone,” he said. “The group has Marines from across the MEU participating.”
One Marine outside of Dark Horse unit happened to see the group gathering and has been a part of the group ever since.
“I had been looking for an outlet for my faith,” said Staff Sgt. Jason J. Morgan, explosive ordnance disposal team leader, 2nd Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU. “I sat and listened and the rest is history. The chaplain has been a big help in finding us a place to meet everyday,” added the 35-year-old native of Cleveland, Tenn.
For many, their passion for Christianity started before they joined the MEU.
“I started reading books on Christianity on my last deployment to Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Scott W. Gilchrist, mortarman, 81mm Mortar/Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel Platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “Within three weeks of having the books, everyone on the hill I was on had read them,” added the 24-year-old native of Ft. Worth, Texas.
Others have goals of keeping their faith strong when they return home.
“I thrived on my Afghanistan deployment with God,” said Cpl. Mark N. Sherfy, squad leader, 81mm Mortar/Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel Platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “When I returned home, my relationship with him wasn’t as strong, but this time I plan on continuing with this when I get home,” added the 24-year-old native of Bakersfield, Calif.
The group follows a schedule designed to read the entire bible over the course of a year.
“There’s really no agenda aside from having good conversation about the scriptures we’ve read,” said Dinkins. “On their own, they see how the scriptures can be applied to their lives.”
The Marines use the group as a way to lead more holy lives.
“We are all working together to figure out how we can be better people through God’s way,” said Cpl. Steven J. Zandstra, assistant radio operator, Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 3/5, 15th MEU.
The group meets in the ship’s focstle every night, proving there’s no need for a chapel to enrich your faith.