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US Marine shares story of faith at Community Prayer Breakfast

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

More than 250 early risers celebrated community and faith on Wednesday morning at the 11th annual Community Prayer Breakfast at Trinity Hall in Chesterton.

Attendees traveled from every corner of the county but U.S. Marine Cpl. Josh Bleill traveled from Indianapolis with more on his mind than the orange juice and hash brown casserole.

Bleill, a native of Greenfield, Ind., shared his journey of faith through its ups and downs; from how he endured personal tragedy while on duty in Iraq to landing a dream job as a community spokesperson for the Indianapolis Colts.

After four-plus years at Purdue University in Lafayette, where he was an athlete on the lacrosse team, Bleill joined the Marines reserve at age 27 to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. He was activated for duty in Iraq in January 2006, where he and other Marines would search for weapons.

On Oct. 15, 2006, “the worst day my life,” says Bleill, he and a few other Marines were riding in a Humvee through the city of Fallujah (a third of which U.S. soldiers call the “Triangle of Death”) in Iraq, when the vehicle met with an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED, blowing it to smithereens.

Two men in the Humvee gave their lives up for the other soldiers. Bleill lost his best friend and both his legs. He lay in a coma for five days with a broken jaw and would undergo two years in rehabilitation.

“I’m blessed to be here today,” he told the audience.

The incident made Bleill think more than once about his faith as he recovered at a snail’s pace. He would have to learn to walk again. He didn’t want to look at himself in a mirror or ever leave his room. That is, until one day in February 2007 when his sergeant came to him with an opportunity that would change his life for the better – the chance to see his hometown Indianapolis Colts triumph over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

“It was bigger than a game for me. It gave me a platform,” Bleill said, to elevate his faith and see God did have a plan for him.

But what helped Bleill even more as he coped with his tragedy were the letters he received from those caring hearts in his community who wrote to tell them how he was valued and that they were asking God to heal him.

“Every day those letters kept coming,” Bleill said. “I truly saw the power of prayer, not just what it does for individuals but for communities.”

He would read and find comfort in the scripture of Jeremiah 29:11, which says “God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

With faith and a pair of artificial legs, Bleill now stands tall. He is excited to share his life with his wife and 20-month-old daughter, and a son who is on the way. He has written his tale of rediscovered faith in a book called “One Step at a Time.”

Indianapolis Colts executive Pete Ward offered Bleill a job as a spokesperson for the team and so far he has spoken at more than 250 events in the last year and Bleill knows the message he carries is a universal one that everyone can connect to.

“We all have bombs in our life that go off,” said Bleill. “But we are surrounded by a community of faith. That’s what today is about.”

Bleill may have lost both his legs, but one thing he has not lost is his sense of humor.

“It’s an honor to be here. Every time they let me wear a Colts shirt in Bears country, I can tell it’s all right,” Bleill said in his opening remarks.

Bleill concluded by encouraging the breakfasters to continue bringing their communities together through faith, which brought the audience to their feet to give Bleill a standing ovation.

Earlier in the program, Chesterton’s Jim Jeselnick led a prayer asking God to bless the leaders in the community, that their efforts may benefit the residents living here.

“With Your help and guidance, we know they will work to make Duneland a great place to live,” Jeselnick said.

The Community Prayer Breakfast started in 2001 as a time for healing and remembrance of 9/11.

Its mission is “to bring together people of our community for a time of fellowship and renewal, a time of thanksgiving and prayer, a time to reflect on the blessings of our common heritage, a time to strengthen the bonds of our common faith, a time to seek divine inspiration and guidance for our common endeavors and the challenges we face together as a community of caring women and men.”

Members of the Chesterton Police Department served as the Color Guard. CPD Chief Dave Cincoski led the Pledge of Allegiance. Father James Meade of St. Patrick’s gave the invocation. Michael Harris, chairperson for the Breakfast, presided as Master of Ceremonies. Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce President Mary Fox welcomed everyone warmly. Dan Johnston, an organizer of the Duneland Resale Shop, read from scriptures. And Sylvia Rhine sang “America, the Beautiful” accompanied by Szu-Ping Chang Wong.

 

Posted 9/27/2012