Tag Archives: military suicides

What do you think of this chaplain’s actions?

According to an Army Times article, a Christian Broadcasting Network report with journalist Chuck Holton, and an interview with the Army chaplain at the center of the story on the Daily Signal, the facts are that

– in conducting a suicide prevention program, an Army chaplain presented various sources of non-religious support and help to troops

– the chaplain shared with the troops that, personally, when he was an infantryman, he had found the Psalms and the story of King David and his Christian faith helpful in overcoming depression

– troops are required to attend such suicide prevention programs

– the handout the chaplain gave troops at the end of the session had a list of non-religious resources on one side; on the other, he had written Psalms from the Old Testament Bible

– the chaplain states that he presented his personal approach as just that, personal, and did not indicate any of the options he outlined were mandatory

– some troops objected to being  given, in the handout, religious material at a non-religious, mandatory program

– the Army issued a letter of concern to the chaplain

– “A local letter of concern is not punishment,” according to a statement by Maj. Gen. Scott Miller quoted in the Army Times.  “Rather, it is an administrative counseling tool, with no long-term consequences. By design, letters of concerns are temporary, local administrative actions that are removed from a Soldier’s personnel file upon transfer to another assignment.”

– Gen. Miller, the article continues, further stated that “the role of military chaplains is to serve the religious needs of military members of a unit and their families.  Their role is not to provide religious instruction during non-religious mandatory training classes. Chaplains may appropriately share their personal experiences, but any religious information given by a Chaplain to a military formation should be limited to an orientation of what religious services and facilities are available and how to contact Chaplains of specific faiths.”

– chaplains, who are both ordained clergy and military officers, are typically in charge of these suicide-prevention briefings

So….

Did this Army chaplain overstep his bounds by sharing his faith as a personal aside in a mandated, non-religious program?  Would he have been neglecting his duties as a chaplain endorsed by a Protestant church not to do so?  Should he have not addressed the help many find in religion and spirituality at all?  Was it okay to address the help many find in religion and spirituality but do so more broadly, encouraging troops of all faiths to turn to their church, mosque, temple, synagogue…?   Should the handout have had no references to religion at all?  Should he have listed on the back information on how to get in touch with a representative of one’s own faith tradition? Was the Army right to reprimand the chaplain or out of line?….

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Filed under chaplains, Church-State, guidelines

A live link

Although the Humanity Explored film festival is over, there still seems to be a live link through another site:  http://learni.st/learnings/86739-chaplains-under-fireImage

So if you want to stream the doc, you’ve got another chance (and, of course, there is always the DVD you can buy).

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5 Things to Know About Suicide: #1 Ask Straight Out

Thank you Off The Base for this and your many other helpful blogs —

Off The Base

They’re called “responders” – the folks at the other end of the Veterans Crisis Line. But they aren’t the only ones serving on the front-line of suicide prevention.

As a society, as colleagues, as friends, as family, we cannot leave the work of suicide prevention to the “responders” alone.

It is up to all of us to act or at least “ask” if we see someone unduly stressed according to psychologist, Dr. Caitlin Thompson, deputy director of suicide prevention at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“If worried – asking people straight out saying, ‘I’m so concerned about how you seem to be, have you been thinking about suicide at all?'” Thompson advised. “It’s just that simple really to just ask the question that can be a very scary question.”

It’s time to stop being “scared” and start becoming informed.

Here are tips from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office website:

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Filed under families, military, suicides, veterans

Can computers help teach the art of being a chaplain?

Probably not entirely, but they might help prepare chaplains for the challenges that lie ahead, according to an article by Mark Pinsky of the Religion News Service.  He writes:

The animated figure on the computer screen moves carefully among the wounded, darting from one fallen figure to another. Trailing the combat medics, the uniformed military chaplain kneels and performs “spiritual triage,” assessing who is dead, who is soon to die, and who is likely to survive.

For the dead, there is silent prayer; for the gravely wounded and those in pain, there are words of comfort. Checking dog tags to determine the faith of the fallen, the pastor uses language consistent with each faith tradition. At each point in the action, a prompt asks users what they think is the appropriate response, and then offers them feedback on their choices.

It is clear from the article that any such computer program is an adjunct to not a substitution for the mentoring and training only another human can provide.

“We shouldn’t confuse simulation trainers as replacements for chaplains or care providers,”  [Chaplain Jeff Zust, an Army lieutenant colonel and an EMT] said. “Trauma care and counseling need to be provided in person. There is no substitute for human contact in training.”

Navy Chaplain Josh Sherwin, 31, a rabbi who has deployed three times to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, agrees.

“There is no way a classroom environment can prepare you,” he said. “But a simulation that puts you through realistic situations can be highly valuable.”

The article then concludes with information about another valuable tool — it is one you will recognize:

A 2010 documentary, “Chaplains Under Fire,” examines the roles of military clergy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the complexities inherent in their service. The film shows chaplains visiting with soldiers in forward operating bases, watching over them in field hospitals, and meeting their flag-draped coffins when they are returned to the United States.

“It’s exhilarating to be in combat,” says Chaplain Bennett Sandford in the film, after escaping an improvised explosive attack unscathed. But before long, after praying over a slain Marine, the Baptist minister says, “the exhilaration went away.”

We never set out to make a training tool for the military.  But we cannot think of a higher honor than to see our work  being used to shape the chaplains of tomorrow.

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Filed under casualties, chaplains, chaplains, documentary, First Amendment, military, religion, suicides, wounded warriors

Humanity Explored Film Festival up and running

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 11.19.55 AMHumanity Explored Film Festival is up and running, and you can watch Chaplains Under Fire on-line as well as a number of other great documentaries and feature films.  And, please, give the festival your feedback and spread the word.  Thanks.

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 11.11.30 AM

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Stand Up for Heroes

Last year, the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the New York Comedy Festival showed the value of laughter, empathy, respect and understanding by putting on “Stand Up for Heroes” — check out a news report of last year’s event then pass the word along about this year’s Stand Up for Heroes at the Beacon Theater in New York on Thursday, Nov 8.

Tickets are available at www.ReMIND.org and at www.nycomedyfestival.com

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Filed under casualties, families, military, veterans, wounded warriors

Of suicides and same-sex commitment

Two notices tumbled into the in-box one atop the other:

The first was the report that, on average, one veteran commits suicide every day.  Every day.  The tragedy of this statistic is only made worse by the fact that experts are at a loss to come up with an explanation and, hence, effective preventive strategies.  Some of the veterans have been deployed multiple times, some have suffered trauma, some have had injuries to the brain from concussions, explosions and penetrating injuries.   A great number, however, have not been deployed.  In all cases, our system is failing them, overwhelmed as it is by the numbers and baffled as to the cause of this enduring, tragic and epidemic loss of life.

The second notice was a report that two congressmen denounced a same-sex commitment ceremony  performed at Fort Polk, Louisiana.  They charged that the ceremony, performed by a chaplain, was ‘marriage-like’ and therefore violated the Dept of Defense policy that only allows same-sex marriages to be performed on military bases in states where this is legal.

The timing of these reports gives pause.  Surely time and effort are better spent trying to figure out how to reach out to troops and veterans so that they do not feel their only alternative is suicide rather than worrying about a ceremony that was not a marriage.  Don’t see  how this violated state laws.  Do see how this could help a service woman strengthen a relationship key to her well-being.

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Filed under chaplains, chaplains, Church-State, military, suicides, veterans