Home Pastors Articles for Pastors Freedom Fighter: The Passion and Pitfalls of a Military Chaplain

Freedom Fighter: The Passion and Pitfalls of a Military Chaplain

Even within the Christian faith, I must help find a Catholic priest for a Catholic service member, if one is not available within close proximity. Likewise, a Baptist chaplain would seek out an “infant baptizer,” like a Presbyterian, if one of his/her soldiers wanted a child baptized.

Another major difference is that we are commissioned officers of the military, so we have the same rank, pay, responsibilities, and limitations as all military personnel, while we perform our duties as religious leaders. There is a duality of identity and mission, which at times can be difficult to balance. We have to manage military and religious duties, all while being within the military structure.

The last major difference is that military chaplains spend about 75%-80% of their daily work hours in counseling and emergency intervention, i.e. suicide attempts and ideation, domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. Preaching and conducting religious services is either minimal or done on a rotation with other chaplains, so the weekly worship responsibility is far less for military chaplains.

Can you share some of your most memorable experiences of how God used you through your chaplaincy?

While there are many examples, I’ll provide a general example instead of specific incidents. I felt most valued as a chaplain during combat and post-combat with soldiers who were dealing with all the aftermath of combat experience. Some had severe PTSD, while others experienced common combat stressors. The best ministry of my life was being able to walk with them through their experiences of being shot at and bombed, having seen dead bodies, blown off body parts, losing friends, etc. – all the horrors of combat – and somehow helping soldiers to see that God walks with them through their nightmares. It wasn’t so much that I was able to “convert” anyone or to make Christians or even to mention Jesus all the time. But, to simply be present and to be used as an instrument of God’s love and hope to those who were suffered so much is what stands out most for me.

There was also one soldier who used to always tell me that the day he stepped foot into the chapel in Iraq, the place would burn down. After almost nine months of just being with this soldier, listening to his life story, sharing with him my life story and faith journey, and riding on numerous convoys with him and his fellow soldiers, he actually came to chapel and wanted to get back to his long lost relationship with God.

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Daniel has been an editor with ChurchLeaders for several years. Daniel and his wife, along with an incredible team, helped plant Anchor City Church in San Diego—a third culture, multi-generational church who seeks to join the redemptive mission of God for our city and for the world. Daniel also serves on the advisory board of Justice Ventures International, a non-profit organization working to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.