Chaplain helps Soldiers by just being there
June 22, 2010
- Chaplains play a significant role in maintaining Soldiers' morale by tending to their spiritual well-being.
CRANE ARMY AMMUNITION ACTIVITY, Ind. - The Reverend William Parsons is first and foremost a man of God, overseeing a group of churches in Mobile, Ala. However, when he dons the uniform of the American Soldier, his role increases two-fold. Chaplain (1st Lt.) Parsons still wears a cross on his Army Combat Uniform, but the American flag on his right shoulder also symbolizes his mission, not only for God, but for country.
"I'm a morale multiplier," said Parsons, of the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command . "My job is to provide for the spiritual care of Soldiers."
According to Parsons, there's more to the equation of overall well-being than just for a Soldier's mind to be right, he said.
"Morale and wellness are closer to where a Soldier's soul is," said Parsons. "It's the unseen, most important aspect of a Soldier being able to live the Army values and give his or her best every day."
Parsons views annual training as a way for Soldiers to prepare themselves mentally, physically and spiritually for the trials and tribulations they will face when deployed, he said.
"Operation Golden Cargo is a mini-mobilization, so this is excellent training," said Parsons.
However, there's more to it than that, in his opinion, he said.
"A lot of these men and women here going through AT are also in the process of coming back from or preparing for deployment," said Parsons. "If you walk around here, you see a lot of combat patches. Some Soldiers may still be caught up in the battle rhythm and dealing with issues left over from being deployed."
Parsons said the specter of sorrow sometimes doesn't appear until the uniform is put back on again following a tour overseas.
"Sometimes the stress doesn't manifest itself until the Soldier transitions back to the controlled environment of a military scenario," he said.
This is when his services are most valuable, regardless of a Soldier's particular faith or denomination, said Parsons.
"The issues we face as chaplains deal mostly with faith," he said. "However, despite the fact I'm a Christian chaplain, I'm able to relate to, communicate with and help Soldiers of all faiths."
Common issues include family lives, children, marriage, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it's not always easy for a Soldier to come forth and seek counsel, said Parsons.
"For some Soldiers, it's difficult to seek help because they view it as an admission of weakness," he said. "What I've found, though, is when a Soldier finally does seek guidance they really have a concern, some thing they're really struggling with."
When a Soldier does feel the need to speak with a chaplain, waiting is out of the question, he said.
"The first question I ask when a Soldier calls or approaches me is always, 'Is now soon enough''" said Parsons. "I put Soldiers first and give them as much time as necessary to provide what they need to deal with their issues."
A vital factor in being a good chaplain that Soldiers can truly relate to is the ability to not talk at all sometimes, he said.
"It's important to be patient," said Parsons. "Sometimes, all a Soldier need is a set of ears, so in those instances, I listen more than I speak."
Despite the fact he has an office on the main camp where most of the Soldiers of OGC live, good luck finding him there. One is far more likely to track him down at the various ammo points, rubbing elbows with the Soldiers who are making this operation a success.
"I get out there and talk to as many Soldiers as I can from top to bottom of the rank structure," he said. "I go where the Soldiers are. I feel as if they'll be comfortable and more likely to come see me if they already know me. This is why it's important for me to be out in the field."
Parsons practices what is known as "preventative religious care," a proactive approach to cutting off potential problems at the pass before they come to fruition.
"I conduct Bible studies in the field and I can also facilitate resources back at a Soldier's home station," he said.
Let there be no question, Parsons takes his job seriously while realizing the history behind what he does.
"The Chaplain Corps was established by Gen. George Washington and is the second oldest in the Army," he said. "Our mission began before we were even a free country - our work is very significant."