The Need for Military Chaplains

The Southern Baptist Convention recently noted the value of US military chaplains even here at home — in the wake of the second Fort Hood shooting:

“This tragic event highlights the critically important ministry of chaplains,” Doug Carver, executive director for chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board, said. “They are able to minister immediately in situations like this, even before churches can respond, because chaplains are there in the military community as soldiers themselves.

“The armed forces don’t see chaplains as pastors in uniform. They see them as members of the family,” Carver said. “The culture in the military is so close-knit that when a soldier is hurt, that means a family member is hurting. Military life is family.”

Carver’s point is an important one: Chaplains are not part-time, attached, or matrixed — they are part of the military family.  Some have suggested the chaplaincy could, or should, be replaced by non-military members.  As much value as a part-time contract or civilian chaplain might bring, they simply cannot match the contributions of a Soldier who is a chaplain.

Military chaplains also helped with the Fort Hood memorial service:

Chaplain Col. Matthew M. Goff opened a Fort Hood memorial service April 9 honoring soldiers slain and wounded in a shooting spree a week earlier by asking God “to walk with us to the valley of our grief…”

Goff asked God to “lift our broken hearts.” He named the three soldiers cut down in the rampage then thanked God for “their selfless service to the nation and for the legacy they leave behind.”

He ended the invocation with “in Your holy name we pray, amen,” then took a seat in the front row with other dignitaries, including President Obama and the first lady.

The three soldiers were SFC Daniel Ferguson, Sgt Timothy Owens, and Sgt Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez. They were memorialized with battlefield crosses, though their battlefield was at home.

Chaplains serve their troops through triumph and tragedy, on the fields of combat and at home — and when the fields of combat are at home.