MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Throughout peacetime and at war, chaplains have provided comfort, encouragement and spiritual guidance to Marines, Sailors and the families to create a spiritual bond.
This week, the Combat Center bid fair winds and following seas to Chaplain John S. Lineback, captain, United States Navy, and his wife Kay. The chaplain and his wife will assume duties at Marine Forces Reserve, La.
The couple met in the late 60’s and have been married 37 years.
“We met in 1967 as students in the Brigham Young University library,” said Lineback, a Temple City, Calif., native. “We were impressed with each other so we decided six days later to become engaged. We have three children who greatly enjoy getting together and sharing stories about the many places they have lived. Some of which are pretty surprising to Kay and I.”
The couple’s first impression of Twentynine Palms was a sobering 115 degree summer day.
“We drove out from San Diego and learned how to burn our hands on the steering wheel of our car,” said Lineback. “ We didn’t talk much on the way home. Of interest was that it was the first and only choice the detailer gave to us in 24 years of military service. He told us we could be the base chaplain in Okinawa or come out to Twentynine Palms. We had been to Okinawa twice to serve in the division and wing so we opted to come to the desert.”
Eventually the fun-loving couple adjusted well to the desert heat and culture despite the shock, and grew to love Twentynine Palms.
“The most difficult aspect of being out here is the dusty surf and boogie boards in the garage,” said Lineback. “We love the ocean, but we have learned to love the open views, the sunrises and the beauty of the desert. We also appreciate the cloudless skies. We usually go out on a three-mile hike about 5 a.m. and watch the sunrise as we talk and walk. I guess we adapted to being here by becoming desert rats.”
Although the distances they had to drive to get around daunted them, they occupied their car rides time with full length books on tapes, about 50 a year.
He’s not a Marine -- he’s a Marine’s chaplain and that means a lot to Lineback. It is that tie that brings tears to his eyes when he is called upon to deliver bad news to a weeping spouse or child.
“Some have suggested that the most difficult part of our stay has been doing [Casualty Assistance Counseling Officer] calls. No chaplain likes to do casualty assistance calls but servicing with the best Marines and really the best teams in the world makes dealing with painful times not so difficult.”
Lineback once said during an interview, “Sometimes we remember the times we spend holding the hand of a dying or injured Marine or consoling a distraught spouse as a significant event. But those aren't the greatest challenges; those are sacred events, and we are blessed to be in those sacred places and to take off our shoes on holy ground."
Despite the sad occasions, Lineback and his wife kept a positive mental attitude wherever they went, whether it was preaching or just stopping by shops on base to visit. He realizes Marines are compassionate towards each other, which makes his job a little easier.
“Marines do better than anyone else in the world at taking care of each other,” said Lineback. “Yes, we’re human and we can have some folks who are easier to work with than others, but overall I’d chose to be with the Marines over the many organizations I’ve served with. I think that is what makes our stay here so special. We got to serve with America’s finest -- in garrison , with the Fleet Marine Force and with the civilian Marines like the great folks at the Village Center and Marine Corps Community Services. We have a wonderful team on this base.”
During Operation Iraqi Freedom 1, Lineback spent a majority of his time supporting the families of deployed men and women. He continuously stood strong and supported various Key Volunteer events. When wounded Marines came home he visited them on a regular basis. He also visited with students who had family members die.
“I’m really sad,” said Lineback as he stared at the ground with a gloomy look. “I don’t want to leave Twentynine Palms, but it has to happen. I thought I was going to stay here for the rest of my time in. As we go off to MARFORRES down in humid New Orleans we will miss the dry air and the dry wit of all the folks here at Twentynine Palms. God bless you all.”