Seabees Construct Stained Glass Windows in Iraq

By Conrad Schmitt
Published in "Stained Glass Quarterly" Magazine

Seabees Construct Stained Glass Windows in Iraq
A makeshift cross marks the spot where members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25 were killed in June by a roadside bomb in Iraq.  Two days after the NMCB 25 Seabees lost soldiers, the unit was back at the scene of the attack, repairing the blast damage.  They laid a cross into the bomb crater, covered it with reinforcing steel bars and then poured concrete to allow Iraqis back on the road near Al Asad.  Only after the road was fixed did they hold their memorial service.  That’s what the Two-Five does: fix things.

NMCB 25 Seabees Navy Petty Officer First Class Jerry A. Tharp, 44, was in Iraq at the time of that service.  He was killed on 12 July 2006 when his dismounted patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device while operating in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq.  He was laid to rest in Keithsburg, Illinois.  His unit remains on the job in Iraq, carrying on the Two-Five’s 64-year tradition of building during the destruction of war.

This is the same unit that, under General Douglas MacArthur’s command in World War II, built an airfield at Guadalcanal and a hospital in Samoa, and participated in combat on Guam.  Established in 1942 as one of the first construction battalions, the Two-Five is the only American construction battalion to serve under the Army, Air Force and Navy. 

Donald Hodory, formerly on staff at Conrad Schmitt Studios in New Berlin, Wisconsin, is now serving in Iraq and led a team that built stained glass windows for a chapel on base at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq. 

Excerpted from the Quad-City Times, July 21, 2006:
The Seabees NMCB 25 are currently headquartered at Al Asad Airbase in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.  They have detachments in camp Fallujah, Ar Ramadi, Al Taqaddum, and Al Qaim, cities in the Al Anbar province.

Navy Petty Officer Second Class Donald J. Hodory had to continue all of his regular duties and find time to work on the windows, sometimes until late into the night.  He also took time to train the 33 soldiers that assisted with the construction and installation of the sixty windows.  “It was unbelievable, the outpouring of help that I received from so many people on this project,” he said.

The Army Commendation Medal, a medal that is for service members who go above and beyond in their service to the Army, was awarded Hodory for his vital role and contributions to the newly upgraded Al Asad Base Chapel.

“The gratification I received is far greater than any other project I have worked on in my life,” says Hodory.  “My inspiration for the stained glass windows came from the desire to contribute my talents for something that will have a tremendous longevity.  It was an opportunity for the Seabees to leave a unique legacy, along with all the other major accomplishments they have in the history of this deployment.  These windows will remain long after we have returned to our lives in the U.S.”

In an e-mail following the dedication ceremony, Hodory wrote: “Finished the installation, and the dedication was yesterday.  You all were hugely responsible for the completion of this project and have significantly affected the lives of all the Seabee, marines, soldiers and airmen here.  From the bottom of our desert-camouflaged American hearts, we thank you all.” 

This project is sure to leave an indelible mark on everyone involved.  It was made possible in part by the Conrad Schmitt Studios, which spearheaded the stateside effort to provide materials and tools to the Two-Five in Iraq.

Letter from Gunar Gruenke of Conrad Schmitt Studios to Those Who Donated Supplies for the Windows in Iraq:
The response to this endeavor has been overwhelming.  Industry suppliers from all over the United States generously donated all of the materials that were needed. 

On behalf of the crew in Iraq, Conrad Schmitt Studios, and the Stained Glass Association of America, thank you for helping to bring this incredible project to fruition.  Following are all of the suppliers that graciously gave time and resources to this project.

-Conrad Schmitt Studios, New Berlin, WI
-The Paul Wissmach Glass Company, Paden City, WV
-Ed Hoy’s International, Warrenville, IL
-S & S Sales, Milwaukee, WI
-Mayco Industries, Birmingham, AL
-Stained Glass Association of America, Raytown, MO

Sincerely Yours,
Gunar Gruenke
Conrad Schmitt Studios

Seabees Construct Stained Glass Windows in Iraq (PDF 1.08 Mb)

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