OTF Soldier Story for March 16, 2009 - Father (Maj.) David Bottoms
Current Unit: Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care
Current Position: Clinical Pastoral Education Resident
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Charlottesville, Va.
Years of Service: 10 Army, 3 Air Force
As a Clinical Pastoral Education Resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Father (Maj.) David Bottoms supports Soldiers during some of the most poignant moments of their lives. Having served 27 months in theater himself, he knows how important it is to celebrate even small victories and to support and guide Soldiers through the setbacks and struggles of the healing process. While his mission is rooted in faith-based counseling, his job some days is just to provide the support Soldiers may not know how to ask for.
As an Anglican priest and Army chaplain, Father Bottoms is devoted to providing Soldiers with guidance and counsel that crosses denominations. The son of a Buddhist mother, he developed an understanding of the importance of spirituality at an early age and also a deep respect for religious freedom. It is this foundation that helps Father Bottoms connect Soldiers with resources to help them deepen their faith, whatever that may be.
The support Father Bottoms provides to Soldiers is as varied as the challenges they present him with. In Iraq, where he served from 2003-2004 and 2006-2007, Father Bottoms met with Soldiers daily, helping them deal with emotional struggles through conversation and prayer. He also devoted many hours to praying alongside wounded Soldiers, and performing rites for deceased Soldiers.
He was there during what were likely some of the most trying times in their lives. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his work in Iraq. He says he sees the medal as a representation of "a great team of Soldiers, some of whom died while attempting to defend and improve the lives of Iraqi citizens living in Bayji and Ash Sharqat."
He often worked with Soldiers dealing with the strain of being apart from or worried about family and loved ones. In these moments, he counseled Soldiers from a place of very personal understanding, as his own wife, also a major in the Army, was deployed to Iraq at the same time. As an attorney for the 1st Infantry Division, she was stationed in Tikrit, Iraq about 25 miles away from her husband. He says they supported each other during their simultaneous deployments through frequent phone calls and emails, and they were able to see each other a handful of times, including Thanksgiving.
Father Bottoms' current Clinical Pastoral Education residency at Walter Reed is similar to programs at civilian hospitals around the country that allow ministers to work towards their Doctor of Ministry Degree while gaining practical experience in the field. His wife also continues to serve in the Army and is currently a civil litigator with the Army Litigation Division in Arlington, Va.