Army Chaplains Ask Life’s Big Questions and Why They Matter
A group of U.S. Army Chaplains from around the world recently visited Grace Farms. The Chaplain Corps has been supporting soldiers’ diverse spiritual needs since 1775. In their work, they help soldiers wrestle with the most important questions of life, like “What makes life most worth wanting?”
Grace Farms offered a hopeful space, to help chaplains serve soldiers with authenticity and grace.
Here are some of their reflections (Video is audio only):
© U.S. Army Chaplain Corps
In 1775, George Washington requested Congress send chaplains to care for the spiritual and moral well-being of soldiers during the Revolutionary War, and the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps has been supporting soldiers ever since. Today, 3,200 chaplains serve one million soldiers, including active guards and reservists. “What we’re looking at are ways to learn from other organizations,” said Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan McGraw, Strategy Initiatives Director, Office of the Army Chief of Chaplains, Pentagon. The chaplains who joined us for an afternoon remarked that Grace Farms Foundation’s focus on the act of pausing with intention and presence provides space to consider some of life’s big questions.
Below is the full transcript:
Chaplain (Colonel) Andrew Harewood, Strategy Initiatives, U.S. Army Reserve
I call them the five hard questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- How do I plan to get it?
- What do I plan to do with it?
- And, most importantly, who will it impact?
Chaplain (Major) Carl Brown, Deputy Garrison Chaplain, South Korea
Sometimes they can have an existential crisis that takes place in their lives. I mean we’ve been deployed, we’ve been a country at war for 19 years. Some of them may not have been deployed yet, but come from difficult backgrounds and they could be in a space like coming to Korea.
You’re now in this space where you are away from home for the first time and some of those perhaps existential crisis moments took place in your life. And now they’re coming to the surface. And, so, how as we as chaplains meet them where they are when they start asking those deeper questions [What does my life mean? What is this for?].
Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan McGraw, Strategy Initiatives Director, Office of the Army Chief of Chaplains, FT Hamilton, NY
The way we’re organized is our chaplains serve at a battalion level, which is a group of about five to seven hundred soldiers that are at the forward edge of the battlefield. So, soldiers always have a chaplain with them at base or when they’re deployed.
We operate in a pluralistic environment. The soldier’s religious need is what we serve. No matter what their religious tradition is, the chaplain makes sure that it’s cared for or if they have no religious tradition.
One of our challenges is to pause, because for most of them they would have been in 12, 15 years. So, they have been deployed at least three or four times into a combat zone.
And to me, what I love about bringing them here is they get a pause. And, so, we give them the respite. And, so you’re giving a special gift to the chaplains.
Chaplain (Major) Stacie Kervin, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii
You have to go through the fire sometimes to help our soldiers. But there was a moment of reflection and then being out here with some of the other chaplains thinking about – like what our purpose is.
As a spiritual leader, as an influencer, unless you have it and it is real, you have nothing to give. Especially young soldiers. They will peg you in a minute. And they will know if you are authentic or not.
Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Brandon Moore, Communication Chief, Strategic Initiatives and Integration Group, Pentagon
And one of the unique things I think about the Chaplain Corps since 1775 before our country was even a country, George Washington said we need people that will come with us in our military. There will be people that grow grace – that in the darkest of times that they can bring light, and hope, and peace.
So when we get called to go to our unique assignment, which each of us have been many different places, a unique place like Iraq, Afghanistan or who knows where else, we bring that presence.
I have lots of soldiers that come in and say chaplain I don’t have you know – I’m an atheist, agnostic. I don’t have a relationship with God.
And just building a relationship and connection is powerful. I always say we let our light shine.
And then we need places like this to refresh, to encourage, to network. Even this course that we’re in, it’s a collegiality. Friends coming together, meeting new friends, sharpening each other.
We are also spiritual advisers to our superiors, and so we are literally in that gap. And so that authenticity piece is critical. We have to be authentic.
So just like they were explaining to us, you look through the glass and you see this authenticity. You look through, and you see the naturalness of everything that’s here. Like was mentioned earlier, that’s what our soldiers are looking for. Do they find that within us?
And again, I think it’s like how do we come to a place to grow grace, and how does that grace begin to grow in us?
About Grace Farms Foundation
Grace Farms Foundation aspires to advance good in the world, providing a peaceful respite and porous platform to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith. The Foundation carries out its work through the publicly available facilities and integrated programs of Grace Farms, an 80-acre property owned and operated by the Foundation. Grace Farms was established as an essential platform for the Foundation, serving as a welcoming place where individuals, not-for-profit organizations, and government entities come together to collaborate for the common good.