Feature

Wounded Warriors

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On April 2, 2014, at Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas, a serviceman opened fire on fellow soldiers, killing three and wounding 16 others before he took his own life. Five years earlier, an army psychiatrist killed 12 people at the same base and wounded 31.

Though several Alliance chaplains are located in Texas, none are currently stationed at Fort Hood. After the latest tragedy, the garrison chaplain told Chaplain (LTC) Bob Collins (U.S. Army retired) that the critical time for the post was the first 48 hours after the shootings. During that time chaplains and chaplain assistants worked through issues and visitation for families of the wounded and those who were killed. This is a carefully coordinated process that takes into account the needs of unit chaplains as well as their commanders and soldiers. “Everyone was hurting,” Chaplain Collins said.

Chaplains are an important part of the network that identifies and cares for emotionally and physically wounded warriors, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). How are chaplains prepared to care for these soldiers, and how can Alliance churches pray for them?

Alliance chaplains are required to have a master of divinity degree, which almost always includes counseling courses. They provide many hours of counseling stateside and while deployed. Additionally, they take seminars, short courses or formal training. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), open to all branches of service, is a year-long ministry program that can be specialized with a psychiatric track. Family Life Counseling Training is an 18-month program available to both army and air force chaplains. In addition, chaplains are considered part of the crisis management team comprising psychiatrists, social workers, medical professionals and other necessary personnel.

Alliance Army Chaplain (CPT) Robert Ginsburg is part of the multidisciplinary team serving soldiers at the Warrior Transition Battalion housing the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The center provides rehabilitation for military casualties, in particular those involving severe burns and loss of limbs. Staff there aim to restore the wounded to physical, physiological and emotional well-being. Spiritual care and counseling is provided by Chaplain Ginsburg, who has received hospice training; completed two CPE residencies, including a psychiatric focus; and has hospital, unit and deployment experience.

Chaplain Ginsburg says PTSD is like a puzzle, and chaplains are the spiritual agencies that help to put the pieces back together. Although chaplains don’t diagnose PTSD, soldiers talk to them about personal stressors and concerns. PTSD and anger are linked. Blame, guilt and unforgiveness are part of the matrix. The first thing the chaplain does is listen to the stories for themes and correlations. He or she seeks to identify the heart of the issue, which takes time. The anger of PTSD is compounded with grief, stress, fear and anxiety. The chaplain’s goal is to uncover the anger and turn the warrior’s heart toward forgiveness and healing.

Many of those who suffer from PTSD have a spiritual void. The love of God brings forgiveness, a necessary step toward a life of healing and purpose. Chaplain Ginsburg helps the soldiers to cope through prayer, forgiveness and spiritual community.

Pray for the wounded warriors struggling with PTSD. Though many have opportunities to connect with others, most prefer isolation. Pray for their motivation to get involved with their families and communities. Pray that they overcome anger and find God and forgiveness. And pray for our military chaplains, who serve to help those who struggle from these emotional wounds.

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