Chaplain leaves Army unit in Iraq

Chaplain leaves Army unit in Iraq

An Army chaplain has abruptly left his battalion in Iraq, saying he can no longer deal with the horrors of war. The soldiers of the battalion have taken the loss hard, seeing as how they’ve come to depend on his spiritual guidance. Easter services have been canceled. The Lutheran minister may even face charges for abandoning his post.

I have no words of recrimination for this man. I don’t know what he experienced and I certainly can’t say I could handle it any better. I feel sorry for him, but I especially feel bad for the battalion he leaves behind. I hope another chaplain is assigned there quickly.

The most senior officers and noncoms in the unit said they had never heard of such a thing in the 20 years or so that most have been in the service. Some, like the battalion commander, seem understanding, yet regretful:

“Look, being a chaplain is not an easy job,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Ingram, the battalion’s senior officer and a veteran of U.S. interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia.

“We have very young soldiers seeing ugly things they shouldn’t be seeing,” he said. “These young guys ... need someone with a deep religious background to listen to them, because soldiers are dying. I am sorry they don’t have it anymore.”

Others take a more dim view, probably because they are in the same position as the chaplain and have had the same experiences.

Dr. Leonard Grado, the unit’s physician and a major, said he and Palmer are here to help soldiers. “I can’t sugarcoat it,” Grado, 46, of Fort Leavenworth, Kan., explained. “Both of us have professional oaths to uphold. I am here to address the soldiers’ physical needs, and the chaplain is here to address the spiritual needs. Both of those needs are very important.”

Like I said, I don’t blame the chaplain one bit. I hope he receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit he needs to deal with the demons he’s wrestling with. I pray, too, for his soldiers, that they will receive consolation of the Spirit and that a new laborer be called to the vineyard. I pray that they all receive the special grace of the Resurrection, to understand the deliverance from eternal death we have been given even as they live right now with the presence of temporal death around them.