As a chaplain in the Air National Guard, I’ve knocked on at least 25 doors to share the regrets of the nation that a loved one has been lost in this current conflict. I’ve seen a lot of varied reaction.

However, Pastor Marc Unger’s reaction to the news of his son’s death is especially unique.

When the death notification team arrived at Marc and Lynda Unger’s home on May 25, 2004, they recounted how Army Infantry Specialist Daniel Paul Unger had been escorting contractors around the Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq on May 25 when mortars began to rain down on the base.

Trained as a part of the Immediate Reaction Force, the young Unger had written in his journal that during a mortar attack “normal people” run for the bunkers, but as an IRF member, his job was to run out “into the middle of everything to look for the attackers.”

He availed himself of every opportunity to show how abnormal his team could be. In one case, he wrote about a rainstorm of 15 mortars that pounded his base. “I could see shrapnel flying around. I was running to my Humvee … I was pulling my vest on and slapping in a magazine…When I jumped in, I remember praying, ‘Lord, please get me back to my family.’” On that day, everyone except two enemy combatants was saved.

A week later, as the first of three mortars whistled about him, Unger found himself singing the second verse of his previous prayer. Instinctively, everyone ran for the bunkers, but Unger who had been working an escort detail with a group of Iraqi plumbers and electricians, had a different tact.

His effort focused on getting his workers to safe ground.

His Commanding Officer would later state that, “Once the attack started, Daniel placed his own well being in jeopardy by making sure the civilian workers went inside the protective bunker before he did.”

When the third mortar hit, Daniel was struck just short of the protective bunker. Daniel was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Daniel’s dad explains on his web site that “No terrorist took Daniel Unger’s life from him. The Fourth Degree Black Belt and four-year starting center fielder was, arguably, the fastest runner on the base. From all accounts, Daniel could have made it into the safety of the bunker with the rest of the men.”

I mentioned that Daniel’s dad had a very different reaction to the news brought by the chaplain on the death notification team that day four years ago. Pastor Marc decided to become Chaplain, First Lieutenant Marc Unger. He is a part of the California State Military Reserve and has been attached as the Battalion Chaplain to his son’s former battalion, the 1-184 Infantry of the California Army National Guard. It is now Chaplain Unger’s job to occasionally carry the same unimaginable words to other families.

He does this with a sense of love and affection for his own son. He sees his son’s sacrifice expressed in the words of Jesus in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.”

When the Ungers think of their son, also a licensed minister, they take some comfort in the fact that “Daniel’s life wasn’t taken, he laid it down for his friends: for those he was assigned to guard to be saved, for the Iraqi people to be free from tyranny and for the American people to remain free.”

On May 27th 2004 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the Capitol flags flown at half-staff in honor of SPC Daniel Unger.

You can read more about SPC Daniel Paul Unger at: www.danielunger.com
If you are interested in having Chaplain Norris speak to your organization, church, or library, please contact him at norris@thechaplain.net Please visit his web site for www.thechaplain.net to join his mailing list or order an autographed copy of his book, No Small Miracles.