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Army Chaplains Getting Creative in Helping Soldiers with Personal, Emotional and Spiritual Challenges

05-13-2020
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Major General General Thomas Solhjem, chief chaplain of the US Army. (Image credit: US Army)

We've seen how this ongoing pandemic has taken its toll across all walks of life and that certainly includes America's servicemen and women. As stress and pressure become daunting, military chaplains do all they can to diminish the impact.

Major General Thomas Solhjem, the chief chaplain of the US Army, says spiritual fitness is a major pillar of military readiness.  

"When you put on the uniform in service to your country and you're asked to possibly lay down your life in rendering service to your country, we have a moral obligation to fulfill to care for the soul of that soldier," Solhjem said.  

An obligation, Solhjem says, that is more important than ever right now.

"So you might have the death of a family member and you can't go to the funeral or you have parents that are aged and shut-in and you can't get there," Solhjem said.

"We have seen a reporting from our chaplains out in the field that there's been a real increase in a number of different areas for soldiers and their families reaching out to them for assistance for spiritual direction, guidance, and for religious care as well for those things," he continued. 

It's the same types of sacrifices civilians face, coupled with the added responsibility of service.

"Fighting and defending our interests abroad while their families are fighting a virus at home," Solhjem noted. 

To meet the need, chaplains have increased the hosting of live online services.

"It's really a new phenomenon and I'm pleased to see with how our people have really stepped up to embrace the virtual environment to help our people stay connected," Solhjem said.

It means that chaplains of all faiths across all military branches are not just ministering to troops and their families, but to all who tune in.

"So it's really taught us, I think, to raise the quality of our speaking of what we offer people in a worship setting," Solhjem said.

Chaplains are getting creative. Like with a recent drive-in theater Easter service at an installation in Japan, and a recent Navy virtual service in Pensacola, Fla.

"They've been even doing things like zoom potlucks, chapel groups, or religious groups doing virtual potlucks just wanting to maintain fellowship because that's a very powerful connection," Solhjem explained.

"So I see in all struggle that people are facing it's a tremendous opportunity for people to be touched in their lives spiritually that, in many ways, life as normal may not have produced," he said.

Solhjem says another positive thing to come out of this challenging time is the members of his department have really learned about one another's faith in a deeper way.  He adds no matter the number of chaplains under his leadership, his unit always has room for more.

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