A U.S. Army Chaplain, Deployed In His Own Country, Honors Pandemic Victims For StoryCorps, Army Maj. Ivan Arreguin remembers being deployed to New York City at a heart-wrenching moment of the coronavirus crisis this past April.
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A U.S. Army Chaplain, Deployed In His Own Country, Honors Pandemic Victims

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A U.S. Army Chaplain, Deployed In His Own Country, Honors Pandemic Victims

A U.S. Army Chaplain, Deployed In His Own Country, Honors Pandemic Victims

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative, which records and shares the stories of service members and their families.

Army Major Ivan Arreguin is a chaplain who's seen many overseas deployments during his military career. Back in April, he and several other medical units were deployed on U.S. soil. Using StoryCorps Connect, Chaplain Arreguin told his wife, Aileen, what it was like to be stationed in New York City during the height of COVID.

IVAN ARREGUIN: I remember nurses and doctors just began crying, saying, thank you for coming. They were working long hours, dealing with so much death. And so they would pull me aside as I would make my rounds, and I would listen to them and then pray for their strength.

And so I remember I was sitting at my desk, and the sergeant major came up. And he said, sir, we have to transfer a deceased individual, and we were informed that he was a veteran. We want to know if you can conduct a memorial ceremony. Now, mind you, none of us knew him, never saw a picture of this individual. And yet, we understood that there was a bond between him and us. And I said, Sergeant Major, I will lead you. And they said, Chaplain, whenever you're ready.

And I remember my soldiers pulling his body out of the refrigerator, draped in a black bag. And soldiers began walking out, all at attention. And as we passed each soldier, they begin granting final salute honors. And we stopped right in front of the hearse. I had a word of prayer. And nobody moved until the hearse was already out, moving away.

As a chaplain, I took an oath to respond to the deeds of my nation, to care for the wounded, nurture the living and honor the fallen - honor the dead.

And when COVID-19 is finally declared complete, I might go back to New York sometime. I just wonder what it's going to feel like to walk down those streets and say, man, I was here when this happened. And I'm thankful that I was given that opportunity to serve my nation that way.

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SIMON: Army Chaplain Ivan Arreguin in Fort Hood, Texas. The recording's part of the StoryCorps archive at the U.S. Library of Congress.

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