SC Guard chaplains provide care, comfort to Guardsmen during disaster

By Sgt. Brad MinceyOctober 8, 2015

SC Guard chaplains serve vital role in times of disaster
Capt. John Denny, Support Chaplain for South Carolina National Guard, and Chief Warrant Officer Four Kent Puffenbarger, South Carolina National Guard Command Chief Warrant Officer, discuss damage assessment of the rains and floods Oct. 7 in the hallw... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Chaplains serve as a vital role in today's National Guard as they have in the past and immediately following a disaster, like the floods which have recently devastated South Carolina, that role is even more important.

Ten chaplains have been called up to serve service members who have been called to active duty throughout S.C. after the rains and subsequent floods that have recently and dramatically impacted the state. The chaplains have traveled all around the hardest-hit locations visiting with Soldiers and civilians.

"Yesterday and today I've been out checking on Soldiers and Airmen and the people making sure they are doing okay because they don't all have their chaplains with them," said Chaplain (Capt.) John Denny, Support Chaplain for S.C. National Guard.

"The main thing I'm am trying to do is helping (Soldiers) understand that what they are doing is important," Denny said. "Regardless of whether they are handing out water, filling sand bags or helping with search and rescue. There is no job that is too big or too small because it all matters."

More than 2,500 Guardsmen have been called into service in the wake of all the flood damage to serve in moving sandbags and heavy equipment or simply delivering and handing out water where city water has been polluted or water sources have been damaged.

"I am amazed at just how happy the Guardsman are to serve," said Denny. "I hate that a crisis has to happen to bring us all together, but it is great to see how we all come together to face this challenge. It's humbling and it makes me proud to be a part of an organization that, while they may have family member and homes that are flooded, they are here serving others."

While Soldiers and Airmen are out assisting local and state authorities or conducting missions that they train all year for, the chaplains are right there with them providing aid and comfort to those who are away from their families and those who have been displaced from their homes.

"It's a huge morale boost," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Roy Butler, S.C. National Guard Chaplain. "The cross represents something in the midst of chaos and turmoil that represents something bigger that we are. It's not the nametag, it's the cross. They don't care who I am, but who I represent."

Throughout the week, until all Guardsmen are returned home and until most of the residents are returned to their homes, the S.C. National Guard chaplains will be on the ground providing moral, spiritual and religious support for Soldiers and civilians in need.

Some will stay in the Columbia area, which was the hardest hit, while others will be following the waters and Soldiers and Airmen to other parts of the state also greatly affected.

"I've been checking on the civilians and the law enforcement proving a ministerial or pastoral presence for them," said Denny. "The citizens are thankful and grateful for what we are doing. The people at the Red Cross here and those that have been evacuated are grateful for the services and assistance that we can provide."

Though not the largest group in the Guard, chaplains are definitely an energetic and indispensable part of the Guard's mission.

"We've got the best chaplains in the nation in the S.C. National Guard," said Butler. "No doubt. Those guys are amazing."

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