War on terror has 'no end in sight,' chaplain says

By: MARGA KELLOGG - Staff Writer

VISTA -- With the sixth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks around the corner, Camp Pendleton's base chaplain said Sunday that the United States is involved in a global war on terrorism that has no end in sight.

"Where all this will lead is hard to predict," Capt. Robert D. Crossan II said after addressing more than 500 people at three services this weekend at the Faith Lutheran Church in Vista. "But it looks like it will be a long struggle."

Crossan's comments came as a crowd of several hundred church and community members gathered in the courtyard of the church at 700 E. Bobier Drive. The celebration has been held since 2001 to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, as well as those who have died fighting the war on terror, said church Pastor Beryl Droegemueller.

"As these young men and women are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's important that we recognize and support them," he said, noting that the church has 50 to 60 congregants serving in various branches of the military.

"They're defending all of us. It's a time of remembrance and support for those who have given their lives over there," Droegemueller said.

The crowed feasted on tri-tip sandwiches, watermelon and cupcakes decorated in red, white and blue.

Navy Nuclear Machinist's Mate Roberto J. Alcaraz Jr., who is stationed at the Point Loma submarine base, sang the national anthem, and Marines from the Marine Recruit Depot San Diego helped youngsters view a red Hummer emblazoned with a Marine Corps sword. In addition, the Camp Pendleton Armed Services YMCA provided information about the programs it provides to young Marines and their families.

As of Saturday, at least 3,760 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Clarke, who is a combat engineer and has served two tours in Iraq -- and returning for a third in October -- was enjoying watermelon with his family, wife Marie and sons Anthony, 6, and Aaron, 2.

He said the support from the church means a lot.

"They actually show their appreciation, rather than just talking about it," he said. "My wife definitely feels appreciated with me being gone a lot. It gives me a sense of comfort to know she has this support."

Church member Kim Daggett said that while she doesn't know anybody in the military, "911 was really sad."

"We realize the value of people and family more," she said.

Heaven Germain, 9, took a break from playing to talk about what she remembered about the terrorist attacks.

"It was when the terrorists flew the planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. A lot of people died," she said. "I had to come up in front of the whole congregation. I was so scared. I sang God Bless America."

Crossan said, "9/11 changed American history. It illustrated that we are a nation that is not invulnerable, even the continental U.S. It changed the way we look at things."

-- Contact Staff Writer Marga Kellogg at (760) 901-4067 or mkellogg@nctims.com