Service to God and Country: Army Soldier Becomes Closer to Christ During Iraq War

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Jagged heavy pieces of metal shot out of an improvised explosive device, designed to destroy is just some of the things David Santos has kept all these years.

“I was a driver, my team was hit with two huge mortar round explosives,” Santos said. “As military vehicles pass by they would detonate the explosives, and then shrapnel essentially would do the rest. That was their hope.”

The realities of doing intelligence for the 42nd Infantry Division of the United States Army during the height of the Iraq War made Santos think about what could be. When he got home he enlisted, this time, in a different type of service.

That was the first of a few close calls Father Santos had while deployed with his identical twin brother, and other men who became his brothers.

Today as the pastor of St. James the Apostle Church in Springfield, New Jersey, Father Santos said being a priest is harder than any mission he was on in Iraq.

“When it comes to the military, it’s high stress and usually you tend to hyper focus on one skill set, whereas the priesthood, you’re the shepherd, you’re the pastor, you’re the CEO, you’re the human resource director, you’re the facilities person,” Father Santos said. “And so and that’s one of the things that I really enjoy about the priesthood is how it’s just it’s so varied. It’s unpredictable. You know, it’s you start a day with one thing in mind, and then it ends and it’s totally opposite.”

What he learned in the military and in the seminary yielded similar results. He became a man built to serve. There are 1.8 million Catholics currently on active duty, according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Today when he holds this piece of metal, he’s reminded that life is fragile.

“You know, when you’re in a situation where you’re being shot at or blown up, you just realize how short life is,” “And how even in that chaos, in situations of hatred and just, you know, obvious evil, how, how God is, is still there.”

As a soldier, he never lost sight of his faith, even in the fog of hatred. Now as a priest, his message to Catholics who feel forced to pick sides in today’s global wars comes straight from the Gospel.

“I think that’s the answer. I think it’s, it’s a peace that comes from God and a relationship with Jesus, helps us to see beyond ourselves, to see others the way that God sees them,” Santos said. “And we need a lot more of that.”

In a red beret and a priest’s collar, Father Santos leads with peace.

Both Father Santos and his twin brother went on to continue their lives of service, his brother now works in law enforcement.