March 2008

Operation R & R: Reconnecting at the Beach

Author: Paul deVere

Phillip and Misty Rabon finally got what they wanted—a little R&R with the kids, at the beach, at the Sea Crest—reconnecting. They had never been to Hilton Head Island, though they live only about 80 miles down the road.

The Rabons, with four-year-old daughter Aubrey and 19-month-old son Ethan, were guests of Operation R&R, a new Hilton Head Island organization that sponsors members of the military, just returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, and their families for a few days of rest and relaxation. Accommodations have been donated. Restaurants either offer free meals or deeply discounted ones. Other businesses on the island and in Bluffton are also pitching in with complimentary services and significant discounts.

Phillip Rabon, an Army chaplain, returned from 12 months in Iraq with the 92nd Engineer Battalion this past October. His “flock” numbered 1,200 soldiers, including members of the Army, Army Reserve and Air Force. “I did a lot of traveling,” Phillip said. In the last month he was in Iraq, he ended up going to six different locations.

Phillip talked about becoming a chaplain. “I spent four years active duty in the Navy, got out, and had various jobs until I felt God’s call. I went to college and seminary [New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary] originally to be a pastor at a church. After I got in the seminary and started studying the Hebrew, I fell in love with the language and wanted to be an Old Testament Hebrew professor. Then I met an Army chaplain. We sat down and talked. Misty and I talked about it and decided that’s what God wanted us to do,” Phillip explained.

Fresh out of the special training for chaplains at Ft. Jackson, just outside of Columbia, South Carolina, the Rabons were stationed at Ft. Stewart. They had been there less than two months before Phillip was deployed on October 29, 2006. “Leaving was difficult. It was kind of a blur, because I spent time with my wife and kids and prepared them , but I also had to prepare the other solders and their families. Some took it better than others, of course. It was pretty intense because everything was happening so quickly,” Phillip said.

Phillip chose the 92nd because he learned they had not had a chaplain in five months. They were getting ready to go back to Iraq after a nine month turnaround. “A chaplain I knew told me, ‘If you’re looking for the area of greatest need that’s where you need to go.’ So Misty and I talked about it. We prayed about it and God sent us in that direction,” explained Phillip.

A chaplain in the Army is always on call. It also means you get some interesting requests. Recalling one story, Phillip said, “One soldier, after prayers, asked me, ‘Will your faith group let you pray over my vehicle?’ I said my faith group will let me pray over anything. He said, ‘I want you to pray and lay hands on my vehicle.’ He drove the lead truck, which is very dangerous. I told him I would be honored to do that. So I had a prayer with him and I laid hands on the truck.”

Returning from a mission, the soldier relayed this story: “I need to thank you. Last night I was in the lead truck and I ran over an IUD, it detonated,” he said. He had a piece of shrapnel that was about a foot long, four inches thick that was in the vehicle. The only damage it did was shatter one of the lamps. Not a hair on his head or anyone else’s in the truck was even singed, and the vehicle remained full mission capable. It didn’t have a scratch on it.

“I looked at him and said, ‘That wasn’t me, that was God,’” said Phillip. “I’m just a chaplain; you’re thanking the wrong person.”

Phillip continued, “I remember I went back to my room and just cried over that because of the awesome the way God worked that. Seeing God’s providence is probably one of the greatest things I took away from the experience.”

Phillip, Misty and the children enjoyed their walks on the beach, window shopping and meeting people. They were surprised by how friendly everyone was. Misty said, “It was just wonderful how the people from Beach Properties came to the door and just said, ‘Thank you.’ I’m so surprised because there are no military people here. Everyone was just grateful, thankful. It’s just the sincerity of the people here. We loved it.”

Note: Atlantic Community Bank has become a major sponsor of Operation R&R, along with Beach Properties. A fund has been set up for families. Close to 40 of the management company’s property owners have volunteered their rental properties. Any business or individual who would like to participate in “Operation Gratitude” can contact Operation R&R’s founder, Grant Evans, at 843-842-2299. You can also visit the website at www.operationrestandrelax.org.

Operation R&R’s founder, Grant Eveans, would like to thank the following businesses for their generous participation in Operation R&R:

Aunt Chiladas
Black Marlin
Casey’s Sports Bar
Coligny Deli and Ice Cream
DelVecchios
Gruby’s New York Deli
Grumpy Grouper Grill
La Hacienda
Main Street Café
Market Street Café
Marley’s Grill
Murphy Irish Pub
Palmetto Sunrise Café
Plantation Deli
Reilley’s
Remy’s
Skillets
Steamers
Antonio’s
Boathouse II
CQ’s
Ocean Grill
Old Fort Pub
Sticky Fingers
Wild Wing Café
Alexander’s
British Open Pub
Captain Woody
Crazy Crab
Harbourtown Grill
Mellow Mushroom
Old Oyster Factory
Red Fish
Stacks Pancakes
Topside at Quarterdeck
Truffles
Spa Girl
Tanning and Beauty Salon
Atlantic Bike Rentals
Boating/Fishing
Breakthrough Fitness Center
H2O Sports @ Harbourtown Marina
Palmetto Dunes Golf
Park Plaza Cinemas
Peddling Pelican

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