Chaplains During Wartime
“That the man of God may be competant, equipped for every work.”
2 Timothy 3 : 17
I live in South Carolina and I am very familiar with Fort Jackson, the
military training center near Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. You
probably know Fort Jackson too, though you might not realize it. If you saw the
movie “Renaissance Man” starring Danny Devito, you saw the training arena at
Fort Jackson up close and personal!
Fort Jackson also houses the US Army Chaplain training Center which trains
chaplains of all faiths who serve the religious needs of our soldiers the
survival skills needed to survive in combat. These men and women also serve on
every US military installation here and abroad.
These blessed people of faith must all receive an abbreviated military
training just as any other service member does. With one big exception. No
service chaplain carries any weapon but are, instead, accompanied at all times
by an armed assistant whose sole job it is, is to protect the chaplain when
serving in a combat zone.
Recently Eric Marrapodi and Chris Lawrence of CNN did an article about this
very topic and described in length the dangers that face our men and women of
faith who are nearly unrecognizable in camouflage gear that mirrors those of
infantry personnel. The sole exception….a 3 inch cross (Christian
Chaplains) or tablet of the 10 Commandments (Jewish Chaplains) or a crescent
(Muslim Chaplains) on the breast pocket.
The U.S. Army employs around 2,900 chaplains. About half are active duty and
the other serve in the reserves. Eight-hundred chaplains and chaplain assistants
are deployed in the war on terror and 300 of them serve in the Middle East and
Today army chaplains minister to soldiers of all faiths regardless of their
own and they hold services in remote areas, connect a soldier of another faith
with a chaplain of their own.
It is a painfully difficult but necessary calling that only some are
compelled to do. They are there for happy times as well as those of crisis. They
minister to the injured whether the injury is physical or one of faith. And they
offer the final rites afforded to those who have paid the ultimate price. But
another thing they do is offer hope….that even in the darkest of days, the
clouds part and the sun shines again. Life continues on.
In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.