The heavy toll on chaplains

A very interesting report by Religion & Ethics Newsweekly explores the toll on chaplains of their service in combat.   As reporter Lucky Severson points out,

According to the army, since the beginning of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s chaplains have served a total of more than 20,000 months in combat zones, some have gone on as many as eight tours of duty. One survey revealed that 20 percent of these chaplains had suffered compassion fatigue or some sort of PTSD.

A chaplain with many years of service,  John Read, recounts:

You see the gun shot wounds, the stabbings, the burn patients, all the volatility of the kinds of things you see in a war zone. I mean I recognized there, as a clinically trained chaplain working in a hospital setting how that would affect me in terms of questions of life, death, grief, loss. The things that profoundly become kind of moral, ethical, spiritual aspects of our lives.

reporter Lucky Severson: He tells of seeing the body parts of 38 little Iraqi kids blown up by a terrorist bomb right after learning he had just become a grandfather. And of the soldier who died in his arms.

Chaplain Read: He had just become a naturalized citizen two months before his death, killed in a rocket attack. I held him in my arms as he died and gave him, recited a prayer from his specific faith that he was from, and the peaceful look on his face as he thanked me and died, I will just never forget. But there isn’t a day that I don’t wish that he could somehow be with his wife and kids.

 This report, which aired on Veterans Day, is well worth seeing and, in a sense, picks up where our documentary leaves off.  Think of the chaplain in the film who ensured the dignified transfer of remains in Kuwait or spend much of their deployment in hospitals.


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