WTB chaplain knows pain of war
September 23, 2011
Twenty-two years ago, as a child growing up, Chaplain (Maj.) Lucy Der-Garabedian was living in Lebanon, surrounded by the violence of war and shaped by loss of family and friends.
"My brother Moses, a soldier, was killed when he was 19. As a child, I had such anger and confusion. I questioned God's faithfulness. I experienced firsthand the impact on our family that his loss had at such a young age," said Der-Garabedian.
With limited career choices available to her, she chose to be an educator. One of the instructors at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut was a missionary minister from the United States. In her, she recognized her future career not only to be a teacher and nurturer, but a leader, as well.
"If someone had asked me 22 years ago if I would be where I am today, an ordained minister and chaplain in the U.S. Army, I would not have had the imagination to picture it," said Der-Garabedian.
Leaving behind her family and a war-torn country, with few options she arrived in the states under sponsorship by the Presbyterian Church of America Sept.2, 1989 and became an ordained minister 15 and a half years ago. Today, she has three master's degrees in education, Christian education and divinity and is working on her doctoral degree at Erskine Seminary.
Fluent in the Arabic, Armenian and Turkish languages she has been assigned to various venues that include Fort Stewart, Ga; Fort Hood, Texas and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
She also considers the Army, Soldiers and staff the Family she left behind. Two months ago she joined Fort Belvoir's Warrior Battalion coming from Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Der-Garabedian sees challenges having Soldiers accept the "new normal" in their lives while retaining faith.
"In every Soldier, I see my brother and I try to minister to their specific needs with the empathy and compassion of knowing war," said Der-Garabedian.
Der-Garabedian compares the Army community to a beehive.
"Individuals have their own corners and responsibilities," she said. "We all come together through our humanity, and strengthen each other."
While working with Soldiers whose lives have drastically changed due to injury challenges her, it also is rewarding when she sees the spark that hope and faith puts back in their eyes.
"To see warriors come back from hopelessness to focusing their power and to do what they were doing before and contributing to the community once again is the transforming power of faith," said Der-Garbedian. "Even our worst experiences can become stepping-stones instead of stumbling blocks."