Memorial Day: Veteran reflects on sacrifices of fellow soldiers

TAMPA, Fla. (BP) – Chief Warrant Officer Anthony “Tony” Prescott can’t forget the evening of August 7, 2015. At 10:15 p.m., when a Taliban suicide bomber breached the gate of Camp Integrity, a small coalition base near Kabul, Afghanistan, Prescott was among the first on the scene.

The soldier in front of Prescott was killed. Shrapnel from the explosion injured Prescott’s face and hands, and the blast ruptured his eardrums. Despite his injuries, Prescott engaged the enemy heroically, as did many others.

Following the attack, Prescott worked for four days straight – without sleep – to help find whoever assisted the insurgents with the attack. As a counterintelligence officer, he wrote the operations plan that led to the capture of the person who provided the insurgents with access to the base. His dedication and expertise were crucial in preventing further attacks and saving lives.

Before his distinguished service in counterintelligence, Memorial Day conjured up iconic pictures from history – Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, Allied forces storming the beaches in Normandy and other historic moments. Prescott still thinks about those images when pondering the heroic actions of Americans on the battlefield.

But today, he has other images to add to the list – like the young man who lost his life in front of him that night at Camp Integrity.

“I think of the things that I’ve seen and gone through, and what some of the guys I served with have done and lost for our country,” Prescott said. “Those folks gave the ultimate sacrifice, fighting for their families and their country. They died for something much bigger than themselves. That’s what I think of when I think of Memorial Day.”

Chaplain (Major General) Doug Carver, the executive director for chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), echoes Prescott’s hopes for Memorial Day.

“Since the establishment of the first U.S. fighting force in 1775, over 1 million members of the Armed Services have made the ultimate sacrifice with their very lives for the many freedoms we enjoy today, especially the freedom of religion,” Carver said. “Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to give thanks to Almighty God for raising up the heroic men and women who ran into the line of fire and died in service to our country at home and abroad.” 

The year following the attack on Camp Integrity, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Prescott the Counterintelligence Agent of the Year, an annual award given to a single counterintelligence agent in the military.

Prescott almost didn’t get the opportunity to serve in this capacity. He joined the Army in 1988, right after graduating from high school. Three years later, then 21-year-old Prescott became sick during a training operation. Instead of improving over time, he grew worse. He dropped to 120 pounds and thought he would die. Eventually, doctors removed a lung, and he was medically retired from the Army.

With that, Prescott thought his military career was over. Over the next decade, he graduated college, learned multiple languages, and worked in both Italy and Egypt.

Prescott also began growing more in his Christian faith. He had grown up in a strict religious home, but he had strayed somewhat in the years since leaving home. A visit to Egypt’s Mount Sinai helped change his perspective.

“I climbed that mountain, taking the 10,000 steps all the way to the top by myself,” Prescott said. “I stayed overnight, watching the sun go down and come up. It was there that I felt God telling me He has a call on my life. I rededicated my life at the top of that mountain.”

Prescott believes the event on top of Mount Sinai helped to prepare him for his marriage to Sheri, whom he calls “a powerful woman of faith,” a few months later.

When terrorists struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Prescott sensed a clear direction related to the call God placed on his life while on Mount Sinai.

“I really prayed about it. It was one of those burning desires in my heart, but I didn’t think it was possible because I was medically retired,” Prescott said. “As I prayed about it and told my wife, I felt this direction that I thought God was calling me back into the service.”

In the next few months, God did what had seemed impossible to Prescott earlier, paving the way for him to return to the military. For the next two decades he served in counterintelligence, mostly with special forces teams.

During his service, Prescott’s faith was a constant source of strength, nurtured by a Southern Baptist chaplain. He said he didn’t understand how soldiers stayed sane without faith, emphasizing that his belief in God helped him manage his concerns and anxiety.

“Having deep conversations with the chaplain helped me stay grounded,” Prescott said. “It reinforced my commitment to my faith and my mission, knowing that my work was part of a higher calling.”

Prescott retired from the U.S. military in September of 2022. He encourages Southern Baptists to reflect upon the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform during the past two centuries of American history.

“We can sit at the kitchen table together and have breakfast without fear of anyone hurting or threatening us,” Prescott said. “We can drive to church, walk through the doors, and worship freely, without any repercussions or oppression. These are things we take for granted every single day. Many young men and women have died so that we can do these simple things we’ve taken for granted.”

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