Bout time I get back into this…Almost six months later

So where to begin? So admittedly I dropped the ball on keeping up with this while I was at MOS school in Pensacola, Fl. I actually had to look back to see what the last thing I had posted was, and imagine my shock to find that my last post was back in October of 2011 when I had yet to even arrive at Pensacola for my MOS school. I don’t even know if there is anyone who keeps up with this thing anymore but I’ll endeavor to keep it more up to date from now on.

So much has happened in the time since my last post. I went to, worked hard in, and eventually completed my MOS school in Pensacola, leaving with a GPA of 95.07 (2nd in my class of 7), several letters of appreciation, and a meritorious mast for my overall performance in the course, to say nothing of the volunteer hours and extra MCMAP training I did in addition to my course work. I even had a girlfriend for a short time while at MOS school. I wish her the best.

Now? I am now in Okinawa, Japan at Camp Hansen with 3rd Intelligence Battalion. I’m still in the check in process but hopefully I’ll begin my job tomorrow. I’ve gotten involved in an amazing young adults christian group as well as an awesome church called Koza Baptist. I’m making friends and trying to adapt to this new way of life as best I can. It is challenging but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

That is the military side of my life. What about my life apart from the Marine Corps. Well it is hard for me to separate the two but I try to have a life outside of the military machine that is my life Monday through Friday. Basically what it boils down to is the church activities that I am involved in out here.

I simply want to give a quick run down of how things are going because if I were to go into every last detail of how things have been going since my last post this one would be WAY too long to read. The short of it is that I am enjoying Japan and God is challenging me daily.

 

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Awaiting the next step…

So at the moment I am chilling at the San Diego International Airport awaiting my flight to my MOS school. Finally I am about to begin what I hope to be the “fun” bit of my training, where I actually learn what I signed up to do. I am very, very excited about what is ahead.

The past few weeks, a bit over a month, have been an awsome learning experience and time of growth for me. It was VERY hard at times, both physically and emotionally. Although I never doubted that I would get through training there were times when I struggled with an intense lack of motivation. I fought through severe homesickness. Nevertheless, despite all of these trials and some more that came along the way, the past few weeks have no doubt been fun. I admit, though, that I can’t wait to get out of California.

As I sit here I look out the airport window and smile. Across the tarmac lies MCRD, the place where, mere months ago, I found myself suffering and wondering if I was even going to survive there. It seems almost like a lifetime ago, when a different Sean Robert Bray dwelt within my body. So much has changed but yet so much has remained the same.

The next few months will be the time when I am formed into the specific type of Marine that the Marine Corps needs me to be. I won’t be able to talk about it at all but suffice to say that it is very cool and I am pretty sure that I will enjoy the heck outa it.

As always, Semper Fidelis and Oo-Rah!

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To be a Chaplain?

Ok, so this has happened far too many times for me not to comment on it here. God often speaks to us in strange ways that we often times don’t even recognize. He may even use people who don’t even necessarily believe and/or follow Him actively to show us something about ourselves that we may not have seen originally and may not have seen ever otherwise.

Well that very thing may be happening now, but allow me for a moment to back up. As you may have guessed this post is about the possibility that I might pursue the chaplaincy in the military. It is not a new notion, and in fact I have put considerable thought into it over the past few months especially. But even before that I strongly considered that path because it would fulfill two big dreams of mine. One, to serve in the military, and two, to be a missionary amongst a group of men in need of the gospel. The military is defiantly in need of the gospel. It is a dark and often depressing place but at the same time offers great blessing and direction. It is a microcosm of the rest of the world in the sense that there are needy people in the military just as in the rest of the world. It is simply that here, within the ranks of the armed forces, many things that might be rare in the civilian world are more pronounced and often celebrated.

Well over the past month, while I have been training at MCT, I have made several friends within my platoon. Many of them, some of them non-christians, have told me that they not only think I should be an officer, but more specifically should be a chaplain. I have not sought out that recognition (for lack of a better word) but it is telling to me none the less. This is where I begin to question if this is the direction that God would have me go with my future career.

There are many variables to consider but none of them are bad. First, the military will pay for seminary. I could, at a considerably lower cost to me personally, pursue and obtain my Masters of Theology degree over the next five years while I serve the rest of my enlistment contract. Second I would need to leave the Marines (but would never cease to be a Marine, once a Marine, always a Marine) and enter the Navy Officer Program. All religious and medical personnel for the Marine Corps are provided through the Navy (as, technically, the Marines are a department of the Navy. We just happen to be the tough side of the Navy ;-) ). From there I would become a Naval officer, go through military chaplain training, and then they would assign me to either a Marine unit or a Naval unit. Either way I would serve the military.

It is simply telling to me how many of my peers here at MCT have mentioned the chaplaincy to me. In fact, on of my fellow students has taken to calling me “Chaplain.” It is weird but, again, telling none the less. Perhaps God is trying to guide my future steps and show me that this is indeed the path He wants me to be on. Maybe He is simply showing me a fork in the road of my future. Either way it requires patience and questioning of the will of God through prayer and Godly fellowship and wisdom. If you have any, please offer it.

 

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God and big big guns…

So why on earth would I put a post on here that was titled like that? Well, for one, this past week I had a blast (more or less) out in the field doing weapons training. When I say weapons training I mean to say that we got to fire an M203 grenade launcher, M249 light machine gun, and an M240 medium machine gun. In addition we did combat shooting exercises and even fired a combat course at night with night vision googles. It was a blast despite not getting a shower and having to sleep on a cold concrete deck with not but an inch thick pad and MREs for nearly every meal. This upcoming week we have our final 15 kilometer hike and then our three day field combat training exercise. Basically it is MCTs version of the Crucible except that instead of near constant PT we are doing things that would and do currently actually happen in a real world combat environment (IED detection, patrolling, how to deal with local civilians, urban combat training, defensive position construction, etc.). Once that is done I will done with the training here and will graduate on the 27th of September.

However, despite my graduation, I will not be leaving here immediately as originally thought. I will stay here as part of a special platoon of guard Marines whose job it is to, well, guard, the SOI area until my MOS school starts. I am not sure how long that will be for but it could be from 2 weeks to a month or so. I am not too frustrated about it as I have heard that it is pretty chill. I like to view it as a working break between MCT and my MOS school.

Spiritually things are going well. This past Sunday we were able to have a good evening worship service. The chaplain gave us a motivating talk about our motivation for being here based on the September 11 attacks ten years ago. We were able to get a few prayer times in out in the field and I continue to read my Bible whenever I can in the evenings. I have a friend in my platoon who has taken a great interest in what the Bible talks about and says. I feel that God is really opening the door for me to share the gospel with this guy and I am trying to be faithful to His lead. It is VERY tough here, in many ways more tough than boot camp ever was, but where things get tougher my reliance on God’s providence and grace gets stronger.

This past Wednesday I turned 26 years old. It is hard to believe that so much has happened over the past year or so in my life. God has been leading me on quite a roller coaster of experience and change, but I don’t complain because it has built my faith in a way that a simple life could never do. I do feel pretty old at times running around being a Marine with all of these MUCH younger Marines but they are encouraging (generally) and fun to be around. To all of you who wished me happy birthday on Facebook or in letters or have been praying for me or even simply reading this I thank you and say God bless you! As I have said many times before your prayers, love, and support are often the extra little push I need to get me through some of the toughest challenges I face here.

My mom posted a new video on here channel. Check out the link below. It will give you a general idea of what I was dealing with at boot camp. I’ll post again as soon as I can, probably next weekend sometime. God bless to all!

Prayers: Please pray for my friendship with that Marine I mentioned above. Pray that God would open his heart to the truth of the gospel and that God would shine through me and my actions and words and that I personally would diminish and allow God to move in and through me.

Pray also for safety and motivation for my platoon (1st) and Company (Golf) for this upcoming week. We have our hardest hike yet (15 kilometers) followed by a three-day field training exercise before we graduate.

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US Marine Corps Boot Camp: What’s It Like?

PFC Sean Bray and his parents, Laura and Bruce(Sean’s mom here again.) Sean asked me to put together a video to illustrate the rigors of boot camp. Since he couldn’t take photos, we found some public domain photos from the US Marine Corps, and together, we picked out an appropriate sequence. The first captions on the pictures tell you what you’re looking at; the second captions (in quotes) are from Sean’s letters home.

Hopefully this gives you a little taste!

–Sean’s mom

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Peace Within a Storm

(editor’s note: once again, this is Sean’s mom. He found some connectivity and posted here a week or so ago, but didn’t have any further luck. He hastily scribbled his latest post before they headed out into the field, mailed it, and asked me to post it. He has called a couple of times; you can find the details on Mighty Marine Mom.)

PFC Sean Bray, USMC
In his platoon on Family Day

September 3, 2011

I write this in my rack (later transposed to CPU) unable to think of anything but this: My God is so good. I can’t describe why I feel so covered by this feeling nor can I offer any reasonable or logical explanation as to why I feel this way now and here during Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton, CA. This place is hard and often very, very dark. God and His son are so often so distant as to be nearly forgotten by all save those of us who rely on Him to get us through. Yet, for some reason that eludes me, I feel particularly sensitive to His will in my life, and I love it despite how much I do not understand it. Perhaps it comes from the physical beauty of this place, particularly on cool early mornings when the waking light of dawn begins to peek over the mist-blanketed mountains that surround SOI. Perhaps it is the love of my friends and family, so freely given and such a blessing, or perhaps it is the pride of Mom and Dad in me and what I am doing, which is a testimony in and of itself.

Whatever the reason I bask in this place of spiritual serenity. It is peace in the midst of a storm. God is here at SOI and I do not mean me specifically. He is here in the numerous blessings that are found in the midst of stress and physical strain, in the scenery, the food we eat, the safety provided by our instructors, the liberty we are given, and even in that strain that so often pushes me to and beyond what I am able to bear.

I want this to be an encouragement to all who read this. If God can be found at Marine Corps Recruit Training and Marine Combat Training, two very dark places, then He can be found in any trial you may find yourself in. He is there, you simply need to look for Him in everything. And once He is seen you will never feel alone again.

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Flying Into the Unknown…

August 30, 2011

As I type this I am at 40,000 feet and flying back towards
San Diego, California and then on to Camp Pendleton, California for Marine
Combat Training after ten days of leave following boot camp. Those ten days
were amazing and a true blessing. I wish that I had had more time to spend with
friends and family. It was a reminder to me (not that I had forgotten) of the
blessings that my friends and family are in my life. Truly the greatest gifts
God has ever given me are those around me and I already miss all of you.

Yet despite how happy I was and am to have seen all of you I
find myself in a position that I had not expected up until a couple of days
ago. When I went to boot camp I left Texas and all of you with the expectation
and excitement that I would be returning home after those hard and grueling
three months. I drew upon that hope daily and looked forward with anxious
anticipation to the day that I would see all of you again. This time, however,
I leave without that hope. I don’t know when I will return home to see all of
you, to be encouraged in person by your love and support, and to just be me
around you. I find myself, perhaps for the first time in my life, truly sailing
into the unknown. Yes, I know where I will be for the next year or so as my
training is so long but beyond that all I know is that the Marine Corps will
send me wherever it is that they need me. I don’t know where that will be, when
that will be, or for how long that will be. I don’t know what kind of Christian
community I will be able to have there. I don’t know what my job in the Marine
Corps will be truly like. I don’t know when or if I’ll get deployed overseas
and if so where I will go and for how long. And again, I don’t know when I will
finally be able to come home, even for a short while.

I believe that God has placed me in this position for a
reason. Just like at boot camp where my world was turned on its head and I was
forced to rely on Him just to keep me sane and moving each moment of every day,
God has now placed me in a position where, in addition to the above, I have to
trust Him completely with my future as I no longer have any say in what it
looks like. The faith that I learned to rely on in boot camp will be forced to
grow now through Marine Combat Training and my job school and beyond, wherever
I may end up. I confess that I don’t particularly like this position. I don’t
like blank spaces, or unknown quantities. I feel uncomfortable at best and
downright stressed out at worst when I 1) don’t know what will happen and 2)
can’t control it even if I did know what was to occur. God began teaching me
those things for the past three months. Now I realize that I have to apply
those lessons. When I was told “You never realize God is all you need until God
is all you have,” at boot camp I thought that that only applied to the current
trial. Now I find that it is true of everyday life. Ultimately, there is only
one eternal constant in all of our lives. Not to diminish their value in any
way, but friends and family change and pass away as we live out our lives. We
mourn their passing, be it death or simply a life change, and celebrate their
continued presence. However, they will not always be there to support us, be it
in person or otherwise.

One day I will find
myself in a foreign country, maybe in a dangerous situation that may take my
life. Can my friends and family back home physically save me and protect me
then, despite how much I know they would want to? Can they come into that
situation, physically, and say that it will be ok? No, they cannot. Yet there
is one being who does have that ability despite not being there in the
corporeal sense. He can protect my brothers and sisters and I when the bullets
start flying. He can, as His will dictates, to comfort us in that moment and
speak directly to our hearts through His word. He can even speak to us, as He
often did in boot camp, through the words of the friends and family that can’t
be there. Christ is constantly beside me, He is my ever present companion and
the source of all of my strength. He will never leave me or forsake me. He has
my soul and gives me comfort when I can find none in the life that I have been
given. He is, ultimately and eternally speaking, all I have and all that I
could ever need.

To the friends and family that read these words I want you
to understand, as I have said before, that there is nothing I could ask of God
more valuable than that which He has already given me in y’all. Despite the
fact that you can’t always be there you pray for me, you encourage me, you love
me, and you support me. You do what you can to make this difficult phase of my
life just a tiny bit easier. For that I am eternally grateful. I miss all of
you more than I can express and wish that there was such a thing as a Star Trek
transporter so that I could return to be with all of you often. I love y’all.

So now, as I approach San Diego, I find myself more
encouraged than when I initially left a few hours ago. Thank you for letting me
rant some, and I hope that I did not offend or demean the value that all of you
have in my life. It is far too great for that. God, through His word and voice
through prayer as well as through the letters and encouragement you sent, got
me through the hardest three months of my life even when I had no faith in Him
to get me to the end successfully. Therefore, He can and will get me through
this phase of uncertainty that I now face as well as any of the challenges that
come along the way.

Please, don’t stop sending your encouragement, and not just
to me, to my parents as well. I will be able to have more regular contact now
through my phone, email, this blog, and snail mail if that is what is
preferred. I also want to add that if y’all have prayer needs, any of y’all,
please don’t hesitate to send them to me and I will commit to praying for them
whenever I can. I serve all of you know, in profession and in heart. I love you
all and will update as I am able. God bless and remain Semper Fidelis.

“And lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
–Matthew

Prayer requests:

  • Pray for Golf Co., Marine Combat Training,
    School of Infantry, Camp Pendleton, California. I don’t know who will be in my
    platoon or what number that it will be. I will notify as soon as I can.
  • Pray for health and safety during MCT and for
    those in the infantry, the Infantry Training Battalion. We will be doing a lot
    of strenuous activities and firing many different weapons.
  • Pray for a strong Christian brother(s) who I can
    support and encourage and who can do the same for me.
  • Finally, pray for open doors for the gospel of
    Christ to be spread in the dark world of the Marine Corps. Pray that I would
    have the strength to stand in the face of what is offensive to God but to do so
    in love and to be ready to offer comfort to those who are hurting. Basically,
    pray that I may be an effective salt and light to those around me.
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