When I started this story, it was just supposed to be about Willenberg breaking a record for the fastest 12-mile foot march completed by a soldier at the DeGlopper Air Assault School. But the more we talked, the more special I realized he was.
My lede is below, and the full story is at: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/army-chaplain-connects-with-soldiers-through-physical-training/article_930e01a8-8b2b-5df1-8b58-28bb864cd2f3.html
When Father Luke pulls out his Bible, soldier scatter.
So when the chaplain was plopped into the middle of a combat zone less than a year after joining the Army, he knew he had to be creative to reach fellow soldiers.
He started Holy Smokes - a lounge time after Sunday night Mass when Capt. Lukasz J. Willenberg, who is affectionately called Father Luke, cracked open boxes of cigars shipped to Bagram Airfield from the states. A division band played jazz in the background as Willenberg led casual conversations about anything the soldiers could entertain.
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.