FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 25, 2010) -- What started as a one-time, invitation only Fort Lee event in 2008 has now turned into a quarterly showing of spiritual support by local clergy who want to embrace all of the new military personnel and families coming to the area.

The Fort Lee chaplains hosted a their latest Clergy Symposium Nov. 17, and more than 75 religious leaders and counselors from right outside the gates and beyond attended.

"They need to be aware of the ministries that we provide to families and couples," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Joseph Gibilisco, Fort Lee Family Life Chaplain. "We want to raise awareness and maybe partner with the local clergy."

Gibilisco said that previous outcomes of the symposiums have been local community partnerships and greater awareness of the needs of the military stationed here.

"The Fort Lee Chaplains conducted a Chesterfield (Police Department) Battlefield Training seminar last year where we showed local churches how to relate to Soldiers coming back from deployments," said Tom Brown, a chaplain with the Chesterfield County Police Department.

That event led to more recent collaboration.

Clergy who attended the Fort Lee symposium were not just from the local churches, police departments, and local fire departments, but also from Southside Regional Hospital and Poplar Springs Hospital in Petersburg. Various private practice mental health counselors also attended. There was basically a representative from a wide variety of sources that could impact, cross paths or come in contact with military personnel and their family members.

Bryce Neumann, the military liaison with Poplar Springs Hospital, said that he sees many military members getting treatment for "moral injuries." Neumann said the hospital was specifically looking for help from clergy with military backgrounds to assist patients in talking about what they\'ve done, been exposed to or witnessed while on deployments.

"What we (chaplains) enjoy that no other counselor does is what is called absolute confidentiality," Gibilisco said. "What the soldier tells me, what the family member tells me, is held in absolute confidentiality. So the stigma (talking about sensitive problems) is addressed by the fact that when they come and talk to me, or any chaplain here or any chaplain's assistant, all of us enjoy absolute confidentiality.

"That is for the protection of the Soldier on their journey toward mending their lives. They do not have to deal with the commander reporting and being stigmatized by having a problem," Gibilisco continued. After the overview of the symposium, all the clergy received a guided tour of Fort Lee. Some had never been on the installation. Others had not seen Fort Lee since all the Base Realignment and Closure or BRAC growth.

"Other bases closed and Fort lee increased," said Reverend Mark Sprowl, with Gregory Memorial Presbyterian Church in Prince George. "What a great change for the Tri-Cities area."

Sprowl had not seen all the growth on Fort Lee prior to the symposium. He said Fort Lee was very important to Prince George County.

"Whether they're Southside Hospital chaplains, police chaplains or pastors in Chester, it's about how we join our efforts together to provide help to all our Soldiers and the Soldiers who will come through here," Gibilisco said.

"We're simply trying to make some differences in the lives of our Soldiers," he said.

Page last updated Wed November 24th, 2010 at 11:35