On the Verge of Something Great

Army Chaplains launch new ministry outreach

By Chaplains Sean Callahan and Daniel Werho, US Army, Fort Bragg, NC

Our greatest blessing this quarter has been the new Verge service launched here at Fort Bragg. This ministry was a product of much labor, prayer, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and the leadership of fellow CBAmerica Chaplain Daniel Werho. In a nutshell, Verge is a new Wednesday evening gathering focused on reaching Soldiers in the barracks population, building community, investing in their spiritual growth, and empowering them to take the lead in the ministry.

The journey began last spring, when Daniel launched a working group with the intent of studying the Emerging Generation – the young generation emerging after the Millennials. A small team of Chaplains and retirees met regularly to conduct book studies, Scripture studies, and present on survey findings in order to discern the best way of reaching the young Soldier population on Fort Bragg. For every answer we thought we had, more questions emerged, and so the weekly meetings became a fluid process where the shape of the ministry changed and adapted. With the help of some key mentoring Chaplains, the team began to settle on the vision, mission, and values of a Christian worship service for Soldiers, by Soldiers.

 Central to the ministry effort are focus groups, which are essentially existing small group bible studies that commit to a 3-month process of studying a book on a relevant topic, studying the Scriptural answers to the questions that emerged, and then empowering young Soldiers to share their stories of learning and transformation during the service itself. The idea was that these groups would enable us to get bottom-up feedback as to what struggles young Soldiers are facing, and then we could shape our teaching to shed light on the biblical truths that answer their struggles. It also provides a unique venue for retirees and other “mentors” to build community with and disciple these young participants.

Daniel’s leadership has been essential to moving the initiative forward. It’s something new and different in the Army chapel life, and as with anything new, will meet with skepticism and unforeseen hurdles. However, support from Chaplain leadership across Fort Bragg has been superb, and we have received many helping hands along the way. Our launch night exceeded our expectations, and since the launch, Soldiers have truly taken ownership of the service. But probably the most rewarding part of this launch month has been the intentional interaction with these young Soldiers. Our goal is to listen to their stories and share the story of God’s transformational love in our own lives.

 In the end, our ministry will be missional. We hope to mobilize and equip young Soldiers to reach their peers. We want to have a presence in the barracks. We want to solidify a sense of community in a disconnected world. We want to come alongside of people in their brokenness, and help them see how Christ can lead to wholeness. This has been an incredible joy for the team and our families, because every single interaction on Wednesday night is with our target group. There is a single-mindedness in our effort, and every week we are looking closely to see where God is at work and who we can invest in.

As I shared last night during our “response night” that culminated our four-week series on Verge’s values, the ultimate point of ministry is to glorify God. It’s so easy to get caught up in worries over numbers, interest, or even how our performance (or lack thereof) looks to others. But, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Every time we have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, or worried how it would turn out, God has reminded us (and especially me) that he can take the least of what we think we have to offer and turn it into something that far surpasses our expectations. He does it this way so that when we look back on the process, we will see his fingerprints everywhere and give him glory for it…because it certainly wasn’t us.

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Join me in thanking God for the Spirit-led initiative of Chaplain Daniel Werho and collaboration by Chaplain Sean Callahan and others to pursue the vision for this new ministry outreach to the barracks Soldiers of Fort Bragg, and potentially other US military installations.  Pray that word would spread, and that God would put interest in young Soldiers to come check out this new ministry experience. 

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, military and civilian, visit http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To learn more about endorsement, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

The Highs and the Lows

Chaplain Reflects on Blessings and Challenges

By Chaplain Roy Fondren, USN/USMC, Okinawa

Greatest blessing of quarter…

There are many; but I’ll zone in on one. As a former Marine Infantry Officer, being in the urban training areas/field is what we do!  And the ultimate auditor of a Marine’s fitness (Tactical, Physical, Emotional) is war!

And as a Chaplain, I recall Moses in Exodus 17 being overhead praying; interceding while his people were in battle below.  A few weeks ago, my Marines were in the field training and one Marine was sighting in a Machine Gun. With my “Sword” on me, I laid next to him and began praying over my Marines with my Bible Open… Unknowingly, a picture was taken, and it literally went “Viral” on Social Media.

For me, the glory of the matter is my Marines have heard me say time and time again the ultimate auditor of life on this side and the next is our Spiritual Fitness.  And for my Marines and the thousands that have seen and or shared the image, I pray they know 1) A Chaplain stands in the gap prayerfully, and 2) The God of this world has died and rose for them, and 3) They have been purposed for a heavenly existence.

It’s surreal to be a Chaplain. To be paid to do what I’d do for free…so that some may come to know Christ!  Please keep praying for Kingdom opportunities to avail. My son, Nate, recently pinned my Fleet Marine Forces Pin which was a TREMENDOUSLY emotional honor!  The kid is AMAZING!  He just shared Jesus with a female peer last night…the guy has a GREAT CALLING on his life!

Biggest challenge…prayer request: …the spirit of resilience.  I have been told twice in the last few months of rape/sexual assault within the ranks.  As one who doesn’t hide emotions well, I find myself frozen in anger… not as productive at initial onset.  I ask for the spirit of resilience and calm amid injustice.

Join me in praying for ministry opportunities like the ones described by Chaplain Fondren; for eyes to see and ears to detect the needs of the moment…and respond appropriately.  For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 199 other chaplains, log on to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  To learn more about what’s involved in endorsement for a wide variety of chaplain specialties, email Andy Meverden, director of chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Touching Letters…Touching Lives

Ministry’s light in life’s darkest moments

Subject: Touching Letters

Dear Chaplain Meverden,

Of all the thank-you letters I have received, this has touched me the most.  The family requested me to pray for their dying retired Naval Officer before the doctor/nurse unplugged the life support.

After I officiated a Memorial Service for one of our aviators who died at a mishap, I got this email from the Command.  These letters are a constant source of encouragement and inspire me to continue to give my best for God and for our country. 

Stay Blessed. Shalom! 😊

<+><

Johnny Cometa
Lt Cdr, CHC, US Navy

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For information on endorsement for military and civilian chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

G’day Mate!

US Navy Chaplain Ministers Down Under

By Chaplain Ted Shields, US Navy, Australia

“G’day mate!,” was the greeting I received when I walked in the chapel tent at Tiger Hill. Tiger Hill was one of several bases that were established to support Talisman Sabre 2019. Talisman Saber involves joint exercises performed by more than 34,000 personnel participating from 18 counties, including Australia, United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Talisman Sabre is Australia’s largest biannual joint military exercise.

Not knowing the extent of this exercise, I was under the impression I would be the only chaplain and my squadron would be the only ones present at Tiger Hill. Yet, when I arrived, I came to a base that had about 1200 military members from several countries. I located the established chapel tent and was greeted by one Australian Army Chaplain and, to my surprise, one Australian Salvation Army Officer in an Australian Army camouflaged uniform.  I found out that not only was I not the only chaplain on this base, but I was going to work with three Australian Army Chaplains, one Salvation Army Officer, one US Army Chaplain and a US Army Religious Affairs soldier. This was truly a Joint Operation.

I quickly learned that the Australian Chaplains do not refer to each other by their rank or title, but by each other’s first name. To the rest of the Australian Army, they are simply referred to as “Padre,” even though they are not Catholic. I had several opportunities to provide ministry with these chaplains. We had two Sunday services, two Wednesday Bible studies, daily mass provided by the US Army Catholic Chaplain and a nightly ecumenical evening prayer service.

Several times the senior Australian chaplain would invite me to join him to visit other bases to meet other Australian chaplains and Army Officers. During the exercise, I was honored to represent the US Navy during the annual anniversary memorial ceremony for the Canal Creek plane crash, which is the second worst air disaster in Australia that happened on 19 December 1943 and took the lives of 31 passengers that consisted of Australians and Americans.

One of the most interesting things about this exercise were the people and the environment. It was special to walk to where my Marines were working and see kangaroos hopping around.

One thing I was not prepared for was the cold at night. Our summer months are their winter months. There were several mornings where I woke up to frost on the ground and not being able to feel my fingers and toes because of the cold, not to mention living in tents with dirt floors and not environmental controls.

But the days were pleasant. The Australians were warm and welcoming. They always had a smile on their face and loved to speak to Americans. One thing I found particularly interesting is the fact that the Australian Salvation Army is actually integrated into the Australian Army. They are not chaplains and do not provide direct ministry in the form of services or counseling, but they are there in a philanthropic capacity and provide things like socks, food and drinks to the Australian soldiers.

The focus of ministry for me was primarily my Marines. Ministry consisted of ensuring there was hot coffee provided, making supply runs for them to Rockhampton once a week (a two hour drive away), visiting the spaces where they were working both day shift and night shift and several on the spot counseling. After the exercise was indexed, the Marines and I transitioned from Tiger Hill to a base in Rockhampton. There, I coordinated with another US Army Chaplain to provide a cultural enrichment opportunity for my Marines.

We visited an Aborigine culture center where we learned about the Aborigines, watched an aboriginal dance and had the opportunity to learn how to throw a boomerang. After the cultural center, we went to an animal sanctuary were there was an opportunity to interact with several local animals including feeding kangaroos, emus, lizards, snakes and peacocks. Other ministry provided was taking Marines off base into town to enjoy liberty during the day. I was given my own van and instructed by the Marine Officer In Charge to get the Marines off base to experience the culture. Doing this opened up several opportunities to engage in conversations about Marines’ faith and their spirituality.

Talisman Sabre was a great opportunity to engage with chaplains and people of other cultures and to engage with my own Marines as well.

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Join me in praying for military chaplains who serve on every continent, on every ocean and time zone around the world.  For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, civilian and military, visit our webpage at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For information on what it takes to be endorsed for chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Those Four Words

Just like that, they were going to change my day

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick, Hospital Chaplain, Springfield Oregon 

There I was, paying attention, at least fairly well, during what we call “discharge rounds.” Out of that mound of information can come hints, either directly or indirectly, letting me know who I might need to see today. But all that changed when those four words came blasting over the loud speaker : “Code Blue, Cath Lab!” Rounds suddenly became where I had been, not where I was going to be any longer. I piled my papers, excused myself, and moved out of the room. Quickly down the stairs one level to the third floor, two left turns, through a badged door, and I was in the cath lab hallway in the midst of a flurry of important people, looking for whoever was in charge.

I am the chaplain who works the cardiology floors, and so, whenever possible, I take any calls to the cath lab. It’s the area of the hospital that has my heart, you might say. The cath lab represents the possibility of life. And death. And who knows which one it will be? It is a place where mystery exists, where uncertainty is the only thing certain.

“You’re the chaplain” was the callout to me. My head nod affirmed that.  And so I was given the quick update, the family information, and taken back to the family waiting area to be with this concerned family. We moved to an inner waiting room. The one the dad had been in before. A room that had negative history for him.  Last time there somebody in his family had died.

The next two hours went by rather quickly. At one point in the process I had been able to go back to the actual lab and talk with a staff member, who provided a hopeful update for the concerned family. Sitting with, quietly watching, praying at their request. Just being there. That was my job at the moment. The doctor came in and gave a quick report. The situation was better now. Hopeful. Stents had been placed, blood flow was restored, and the patient was out of immediate danger. She had almost died. But not this time, at least. We could breathe words of thank you.   

I took this numerically growing group up a floor to the ICU waiting area, which was where the patient was heading. I got them settled and assured them I would be back soon to check on them, right after I did some self-care, which I also encouraged them to consider.

Just as my lunch was about to go into the microwave four similar words blared overhead: “Code Blue, Surgical ICU!” Different location, same effect. Lunch could wait. I just knew this was the same case and I needed to be there.

I was right. I quickly entered the ICU and asked which room was involved. It was hers. She had coded on the way to ICU. Her heart had stopped and they were performing chest compressions. Lots and lots of activity. Everyone doing their jobs well. The danger we thought had passed was more present than ever.  Nobody in that room was thinking about lunch right now.

The doctor in charge was orchestrating the situation well. I watched for a few minutes. No progress yet. I caught her eye and asked if I could bring family in. She looked at me and said, “Two. That’s it. Stay right with them.” I moved quickly to the waiting area and connected with dad and sister. I informed them of the situation and brought them back. We stationed ourselves just outside the room and observed the attempt to save the life of this thirty five year old mother of two young children. Observing active CPR is jarring the first time one sees it. I had my left hand on dad’s shoulder as he looked on and my other arm wrapped around the patient’s  younger sister, who had pulled in close under my wing and was quietly pleading, “No, Jesus, not today. This is not the day! This is not the day. You need to fight, sis. You need to fight. I can’t do this right now.” I stood by quietly providing a safe place for her to plead.

One more attempt was made, one more test, and then the moment arrived when the doctor had to inform us that her heart had no remaining function. The battle was over. The attempts stopped. The monitor went silent. And I held them in the swirling sea of tears and attempts by staff to console. 

A while later, after sitting and talking with the sister about what had happened and what might be coming, I heard a phrase from her that I will not forget. She thanked me. That’s not unusual. But what she thanked me for was what I had not heard before. “Thank you for holding me while I snotted on your shirt!” I just chuckled and said, “No problem. It’s just a shirt.”  A bit later the realization came to me: I’ve got another shirt. She doesn’t have another sister.” It puts things in perspective.

As a chaplain, I really cannot often be the “answer man” for people, because often there are no answers to the questions they are asking, or at least ones I have access to. And it’s not really what she needed, anyway. Maybe what I can be is best described as “anchor man.” In a swirling world, full of fear and frustration, I need to stay firmly planted.  Mouth shut, heart open. Maybe a few tears leaking out. Just being. Calm in the midst of chaos. Love in the horror of loss.

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Join me in thanking God for kind, compassionate hospital chaplains like Gordon who daily respond to people in crisis in Emergency Departments (ED/ER), Intensive Care Units (ICU/CCU), Birthing Centers and Hospice settings across America.  He is one of 28 hospital and 14 hospice chaplains endorsed by CBAmerica.  Pray for the Spirit’s direction in assessing and responding with Christ’s compassion and direction in each situation.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to our webpage at www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  To request a brochure on chaplaincy or what it takes to be endorsed as a chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Uncle Sam Wants You…. to Pray about becoming a Chaplain!

So does the Lord Jesus;

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”


Just in from the Office of the Army Chief of Chaplains; 4 October 2019

Endorsing Agencies,

Thank you for the heavy lift last year for the Army Chaplain Corps.  Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 was the largest year for accessions in the Chaplain Corps in over twelve years.  You provided a myriad of ministers to answer the call to serve God and country!

FY 2020 will be even larger.  But with hard work from all involved, we will continue to provide Chaplains to meet the needs of the Army.  And we will close vacancies across the Army that have not been filled in numerous years.

CH (MAJ) Chris Wallace
Accessions Officer

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Uncle Sam also needs chaplains in the Air Force, Navy (Marines & Coast Guard), active duty, reserve and National Guard.  Other Federal agencies seeking qualified and endorsed fulltime chaplains include the Veterans Health Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons; with volunteer positions in local FBI field offices.

At the State and local levels are another group of agencies seeking chaplains, full, part-time pastors who sense a call to medical centers, hospitals and hospice ministry.  Many local communities seek pastors to volunteer as first responder chaplains with law enforcement, firefighters and EMS.  Specialized volunteer chaplains walk America’s Great Trails seeking wounded warriors, ride motorcycles, minister to Veterans and other creative ministry venues.

For information on what it takes to be endorsed as a chaplain, contact Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

In the Shadow of Mount Fuji: Short tour in a beautiful spot

By Chaplain Donald Nelson, US Marines, Japan

Moving From the Mojave Desert to Camp Fuji Japan.

It was tough leaving behind the desert of 29 Palms* and my friends in Combat Logistics Battalion – 7.  I am excited about the journey ahead in Japan as an installation command chaplain.

My greatest blessing was hearing from a fellow officer at my farewell in 29 Palms. He shared how much I impacted his life spiritually. He talked about how he came to know the Lord this past year and how much I encouraged him on his journey. It was a great blessing to be part of his faith journey.

I thank God for the two Marines who accepted Christ and the two who recommitted their lives to Him.

Please Pray:

  • For my chapel services and my networking on base.
  • We try to do many activities with our host nation, from an English Summer Camp later in August to visiting Festivals, both put on by our base and the local community.
  • We have a great partnership with the USO who sponsors actives that we do.
  • Pray for relationships to be built and open doors for the Gospel to be presented.
  • Praying for my base that I serve that Marines and Sailors would feel open to come worship and take part in activities that we have at the chapel.

Six weeks later…

Chaplain Andy,

Good afternoon sir!  I am staying very busy here in Japan.  Here are a few pictures from various ministries that I already have done here.

When we served our community in August 2019 at the annual English Summer Camp,  we got on “Marines.mil” as the second featured story.  Our volunteer activity receives support from our Commanding Officer who encourages our service in the community.  The English summer camp is our biggest event of the year because of the partnership we have with a local school.  We help them have a real-world experience of “coming to America” through our base tour.  In addition, we build relationships with them through our games and service projects.

I climbed MT. Fuji back in July. It was exhausting but a great experience and helped test my endurance and hiking ability. Though a relatively small base, we stay busy engaging our local community, seeking to build positive relationships. We serve at an orphanage, local school, and various other places.

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Join me in thanking God for this first-term Navy chaplain, Donnie Nelson who is more than keeping up with the young Marines he serves!  Pray for God’s wisdom in recognizing open doors of ministry into the hearts, minds and souls of his military flock.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains, military and civilian, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For more information on chaplain endorsement, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Notes: *29 Palms MCAGCC is the premier US Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center located between the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.

Working on “Loose Ends:” Four things to say at life’s end

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick, Hospital Chaplain

She was a lot like many older patients I have talked with at end of life. She said she was eighty-four and did not think she had much time to live now. Often such patients are quick to share their strong personal faith in God and their confident expectation of “going home to be with the Lord” when they die. And she indeed forcefully shared those words. Hers is a faith language I understand and speak fluently.  I offered to sing with her. We actually sang parts for a couple of classic songs, including the one most requested – “In the Garden.” 

This visit was very familiar to me up to this point. But then one question changed everything. She said, “How do I say goodbye to my children?” Now she had my attention. I thought for a moment before answering. We had moved from her own personal faith to her position as a parent. As a mother. And there in the room was one of her children, buried in a blanket, sitting back on the sofa cushion that had been acting as her bed. No words, no looks from her. No seeming interest in being included in this conversation. But she was there. And she was listening. Where would I be going with my answer to her question? I sensed a lot of hurt. It almost leaked out from underneath the blanket. Like a clammy puddle.

“Have you ever heard of the term closure?” was my choice for continuing our conversation. She had heard of it. We went on to discuss the concept of “tying up loose ends” that we all have with friends and relatives. In that way we can have a more comfortable death, knowing we have said and heard what was needed for us and those connected with us. She was interested in what this might include. I recalled a conversation I had recently had with a colleague regarding this exact subject. I remembered us talking about four things (if I remembered correctly!) that needed to be said before we die. Honestly, though, I was not sure I remembered the correct order. I decided that was not the most important thing in this conversation. And so I started as she quietly listened.

“I love you. . .please forgive me. . .I forgive you. . .good bye.” Not that quickly, of course. But those were the four things or subjects.  Turned out the first one was going to be hard for her. “I grew up in a (and then she mentioned a European country) home where we did not talk about emotions at all.”

“And so I am going to guess that you were not often told you were loved, nor were you comfortable saying that to your children as well, right?”

A tiny nod I almost could not see. But it was there. How sad, I thought, to be able to refer to our strong love and feelings for God and not for our own family. I could feel a palpable radiation of frustration and loss from the daughter. I did not need to look her way to confirm. We all three knew this to be a source of a great deal of hurt for both of them.  This was an awkward time for all three of us, I imagine. I am aware that many of this patient’s generation had gone without any kind of validation or affection, often for their entire relationship, or lack thereof, with their own parents. Nurturing was sadly often absent.

What would it help to hear those words now if they had not been spoken when they were so achingly needed at a younger age? I have heard first-hand the frustration of adult children who wondered why this had to happen at the death bed. WHY COULDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT BEFORE NOW?? But I also know hearing late is better than never hearing.

I knew some hard work needed to happen in that room that day. I would “leave the tools in the room” so they could hopefully, if awkwardly, make an attempt at using them. And if things went well they might break down and share some actual feelings and forgiveness. This was between them. I prayed for them before I left. When I stood up the daughter looked at me with a very intense gaze. I walked over to her and quietly said, “Can I give you a hug?” She stood up and received a tender embrace. There were tears present. I quietly whispered that the two of them had some important work to do. I asked for a commitment to attempt, knowing this was important for her. “Risk for your own sake.” She gave me a small nod and a thank you. I quietly left, praying silently on my way out.

How did that end? I do not know. I have not seen the patient again. She left the hospital for a facility the next day. My role as chaplain is varied. In this case it was pretty much “Emergency Intervener.” I can only suggest where their path might be. I cannot walk it for them. My prayer is that they were able to finally break the silence, bridge the gap, and find some measure of closure at the end of life.  Oh, and Lord, help me to remember to say what I need to say to the ones that need to hear it at times that it helps the most. I must start with me!   

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Join me in thanking God for wise and willing chaplains like Gordon, who listen to the Spirit’s leading in the critical moments of hospital ministry.  While you’re at it, ask God to guide all our 200 CBAmerica chaplains – civilian and military – as they meet people today on the battlefield of life.

For more stories by and about chaplains ministering on the cutting edge, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For information on what it takes to be endorsed for chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Chaplain Keeps Doing the Same Thing: Sharing Jesus in Junior High, in the Army & on the Trail

By Chaplain Dennis Newton, Chaplain, Colonel, US Army Retired, Currently Trail Chaplain

This picture was taken of me last November by my Junior High School Running Buddy- Mark Woods. Mark has told me over the years of how our conversations while running in junior high and high school helped him come to know the Lord. I was just a dumb junior high school kid doing the same thing I did in the Army and now on the trail. Mark is now a Sunday School leader at his church in Temecula, CA. 

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Today, Dennis, a retired Army chaplain, devotes time hiking America’s great long-distance trails; seeking hurting and lost souls.  Knowing that 15% of Thru-Hikers* are combat veterans seeking peace, he walks America’s Great Trails with open eyes and ears for opportunities to share Jesus, the Prince of Peace with anyone, especially Veterans.  Every now and then he finds one.

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*Note: “Thru-Hikers” are those hikers who attempt to walk an entire trail. The Pacific Crest Trail shown here runs 2650 miles from the US border with Mexico all the way to Canada.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains – civilian and military – visit our webpage at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To learn more about endorsement for chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Honoring the Dead: Disabled Veterans Roll into Action on Memorial Day

By Bruce Kalish, Senior Chaplain, Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Veterans are often identified by their disabilities, not their capabilities.  But, in Long-Term Care we encourage independence and advancement toward one’s fullest potential.  

On May 30th, 2019, this objective was achieved in a profound way.  The traditional Memorial Day is always a solemn commemoration at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV).  A Patriotic program includes stirring music, food, a keynote speaker, reading the names of veterans who died at the home since the last Memorial Day, a tribute by the Blue and Gold Star Mothers, a three-volley rifle salute with Taps by the Kent County Veterans’ Honor Guard and a military color guard to post and retire the National, State and service flags.   In past years, these programs were provided for our veterans.  This year, our resident Veterans (we call them Members) were asked to serve in the program.

Prior to the program, we ordered silk wreaths for each branch of service.  Members in our Home’s woodshop created a pattern for each service logo and cut medallions to hang in the center of each wreath.  About thirty other members participated in the prelude of patriotic songs as part of our Home’s traveling chorale, the “Vet-Tones.”  Then, the ceremony was opened by the GRHV Member Color Guard posting the branch of service, State and National flags.  At the close of the ceremony, the same members retired the colors.

In the future we hope to develop adaptive harnesses to assist those in wheelchairs who carried the flags.  The precision, pace and polish of the active military from previous years may have been missing; but the empowerment, passion and pride evidenced in these standard-bearers stirred everyone’s emotions.

Chaplains “nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead.”  Memorial Day 2019 at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans fulfilled that ethos.


When Chaplain Kalish initially reported on this event, he casually mentioned the participation of wheelchair bound honor guard members.  Never having seen flags posted this way, I asked him to provide photos of the event.  I was so impacted by what I saw, I asked him to provide a narrative of the ceremony to share with our readers.

Join me in thanking God for Chaplain Bruce’s creative foresight to involve resident Veterans – all capable Members, even those confined to wheelchairs; in the ceremony.  Such integration of Veterans helps assuage the painful scars carried by “those who shall have borne the battle.”*

For more stories about CBAmerica chaplains go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For information on endorsement for a wide variety of chaplain specialties, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

*Notes: This phrase is found in the last paragraph of Lincoln’s second inaugural address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”