We interviewed a variety of chaplains from all branches of the Armed Forces, and asked them, “What advice would you give…”
To a young person going to war?
CH(LTC) Kenneth Stice, USA: Be prepared to live—not just die.
All warriors will be touched by the loss of a comrade–prepare yourself to be hurt (spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically). That preparation includes knowing where you would spend eternity–but also how to cope, adjust, and grow through the trials that combat deployment brings into your life. Get honest with where you are in your spiritual journey.
No one downrange will be impressed with phony posturing. The opportunities to be relevant with your faith will be apparent–and witnessing opportunities will come about naturally, in response to your combat experiences.
CH(MAJ) Mark Fairbrother, USA: Get a grip on God’s grace and what that means so you don’t become self-righteous as you live for the Savior. Get physically fit. Get mentally fit. Remind yourself that you are going to war, which is a form of controlled and channeled violence under authority. The enemy will physically kill you if he has the opportunity; the enemy of your soul will destroy you as well if given the opportunity.
If you are joining the military, God calls you to be nothing short of a warrior. Prepare yourself for what war is all about. This current conflict promises to be a long one, a violent one. Biblical fitness will sustain you.
CH(CPT) Steven Satterfield, USA: Pay attention to your chain of command’s training. It may save yours or someone else’s life. Learn to “suck it up and drive on” for the kingdom of God. You are able to do spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6) in places others can’t go by praying, reading the Word, worshipping, and appropriately sharing your faith. Consider it comission from God! SS
CH(LtCol) Ron Prosise, USAFR: Be sure your relationship with God is what it should be.
CDR Rick Hamme, CHC, USNR (Ret.): Make sure you are as spiritually ready as you are physically and mentally ready.
CH(MAJ) Marc Gauthier, USA: Work on those relationships that are most important. I encouraged people in my unit to write their last letter–their legacy–and offered to hold the letters while they served in Iraq. I had thirty letters in my care and was pleased that all thirty people returned alive. I didn’t have to deliver any of those letters.
CH(LTC) Fred Robinson, USA (Ret.): Know how to lead another service member to Christ, and look for opportunities to do so. Participate in a local Bible study with other Christians. If there is no study, organize one. Use down time to read or study the Bible. God is sending you downrange for a purpose, so be open to His leading in your life (Proverbs 3:5-6).
To someone being deployed…again?
RP: Trust God’s purpose in your life and accept this as a unique opportunity to be His man/woman.
KS: I have found after four combat tours, the quicker I get my focus off of my apprehension–and onto the needs of others, the quicker I find God’s comfort for my own heart.
SS: Make sure your records are updated to reflect past deployments, so the system is as fair as it can be to you. Share your wealth of knowledge with those who have not deployed. Focus on praising God for the positive opportunities He is going to give you again. Pray that God would penetrate the land to which He is sending you with His glorious and powerful Good News message. If that doesn’t eventually occur, any physical victory is of no long term benefit.
MF: If you are married with a family, get some great family photos taken. Read a daily devotional concurrently with your family members. Write as often as possible. For men especially, get accountable with others in order to avoid the scourge of pornographic material.
FR: Reflect on your last deployment and the things that were most difficult or that brought you down, and take positive steps to avoid or overcome them through wise counsel and better judgment. If married, use the separation to become stronger as a couple by setting goals to read marriage enrichment or spiritual growth books simultaneously. Figure out a way to communicate regularly. Remember that deployment in itself will not make a hurting marriage better or a healthy marriage worse.
MG: As Christians, God promises to supply our needs (Philippians 4:19) and we can hold Him to that. Identify your top needs (i.e. keeping your family strong), then bring those confidently to God.
CH(MAJ) Mark Fairbrother, USA
CH(MAJ) Marc Gauthier, USA
CDR Rick Hamme, CHC, USNR (Ret.)
CH(LtCol) Ron Prosise, USAFR
CH(LTC) Fred Robinson, USA (Ret.)
CH(CPT) Steven Satterfield, USA
CH(LTC) Kenneth Stice, USA
Reflect on your last deployment and the things that were most difficult or that brought you down, and take positive steps to avoid or overcome them through wise counsel and better judgment.
To their families?
FR: Remember that the spouse who stays home “defines” the deployed spouse to the children–especially young children. If the spouse makes positive comments about the deployed spouse (“brave, helping another country become strong, taking care of soldiers”), is proud of their service, and is thankful for the love and dedication, the children will believe the deployed mom/dad is a hero.
If the spouse is hurting, angry, or bitter about the deployment (“the service member volunteered to go and only thinks about him/herself, doesn’t care about us”), then the kids will emotionally feed off this and reflect the same sentiments.
KS: Pray for your warrior. Send care packages. Limit the burden to constantly seek the deployed one’s advice to solve problems. Continue to grow and honestly face the differences that come from being separated–like taking two different roads to the same location. Stay involved in Christian relationships. Enjoy yourself! There is no need to sacrifice and suffer to match the hardships of the warrior’s rigorous life downrange. Be patient with your warrior’s return and even his/her difficulty to express from the deployed site–what exactly is going on in his/her heart.
MF: Don’t give in to grumbling and complaining. It is a spiritual cancer that will distract you from thankfulness and praise. It’s been a long time since we had to pay any substantial price for what we have come to take for granted as a nation and as the church of Christ. Get on your knees and pray, thanking God for what we do have.
SS: Take advantage of the Family Support Groups, Military Family Life Consultants, and so on. Be plugged into a local chapel/church and their small groups. Communicate!
RP: Go beyond just counting the days until your loved one returns, and live in the moment to God’s glory.
To someone considering the chaplaincy?
MG: There are great opportunities, but the chaplaincy can be one of the loneliest positions in a unit. These are demanding times of ministry–facing life and death daily. God is faithful to supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). We are not called to a task without the resources to accomplish it.
FR: It is a great and noble calling, and people who have had prior military service tend to do best because they can understand and can relate to the culture and environment. To be most successful, you must be athletically oriented and able to keep up with young service members on runs and marches.
Get as much supervised ministry experience with civilians as possible before becoming a chaplain…performing funerals, counseling, hospital visitation, and preaching. There are seminary scholarships of thousands of dollars being offered when you become a “chaplain candidate” during seminary.
MF: Confirm your calling to ministry in the local church. Become active in volunteer Christ-centered and Bible-centered ministry. You may think you are called, but the internal call is only half of the equation. Is it confirmed by God’s people as they observe your life within the body of Christ? Read and study the Bible. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a high view of Scripture: it claims to be inerrant and infallible.
KS: Explore and ask questions. Be honest about the probability of combat deployment. There is a measure of “social work” that will require agile leadership from chaplains to address the human needs of warriors and families–that may not always land them in chapel.
RP: We need good chaplains who will faithfully minister God’s Word. But remember that being a chaplain isn’t the only way to serve Christ in the military. I thank God for the officers/enlisted men and women who are faithful believers, being salt and light.
SS: The Army is short about 600 chaplains.