Military Chaplains Give Comfort, but Need it, Too

The New York Times carries an article on Chaplain (Maj) David Bowlus, a former armor officer and current Chaplain with the US Army.  Like many of the Soldiers he serves, Chaplain Bowlus has deployed eight times in the past 9 nears.

In those years, he has held syringes and gauze for a medic while praying the 23rd Psalm with a soldier shot during a raid in Mosul, Iraq. He has administered first aid and God’s word to the fighting men raked by rocket-propelled grenades when the Taliban ambushed their convoy. He has soothed grieving parents and overseen the loading of coffins for the long flight home.

Just like every other Soldier, though, the Chaplain experienced the cumulative effects of the weight of war. 

“I found myself at a crossroads of giving and pouring out and having to find a way to refill my reservoir,” Major Bowlus said in an interview last month, recalling his lowest ebb. He continued a few moments later: “I realized my passion for God and my love for people was waning. I cared, but I didn’t care as much as when I first went in. I was lovingly going through the motions.”

The article notes a recent dissertation at Kansas State claims 20% of Chaplains showed signs of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.  While this may be “expected” in the military community, some may not understand the ‘comforters’ — military Chaplains — may experience the same things.

Bowlus finally began to talk to other Chaplains and fellow officers.

He found renewed strength in psalms that, as he put it, “considered how a warrior like David walked through the difficult times of his life.”

He now uses his experiences to train Chaplains at the military Chaplain school at Fort Jackson.