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Caring for the Souls of Soldiers: Why Military Chaplains Are More Needed Than Ever In the Time of COVID-19


The ongoing pandemic takes a toll across all walks of life and that certainly includes our servicemen and women. As stress and pressure become daunting, military chaplains do all they can to diminish the impact.

Major General Thomas Solhjem, Chief Chaplain of the 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. 

Solhjem says that obligation is more important than ever right now with all that's going on in the world.

"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," Solhjem said.

"So, you might have the death of a family member and you can't go to the funerals or you have parents that are aged and shut-in and you can't get there. They have 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. And so as with any worship, worship is center on the light of Christ so we very much intentionally light this light of Christ."

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

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

It means chaplains of all faiths, across all military branches, 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. For example, a drive-in theater Easter service at an installation in Japan, or a Navy virtual service in Pensacola, Florida.

"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 said.

"So, I see it in all the struggles 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."

Solhjem says another positive of this challenging time is those in his department of different beliefs have learned about one another's faith in a deeper way. He adds that although his unit has about 28 hundred chaplains, there's always room for more.

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