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Saying thank you to a veteran

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeffrey Neuberger
From time to time, I receive brief recollections of service from military chaplains I've come to know. I'm always delighted to hear their thoughts and eager to share them with others. Here, I'd like you to listen in while retired Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeffrey Neuberger explains the importance of ceremonies of remembrance.  Read More 
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A special offer for Memorial Day

I love when people express their gratitude to those who serve in the military in concrete ways. If we're at a restaurant, my husband will pick up the check of anyone in uniform or wearing a veteran's cap. I've seen many people reach out to shake the hand of a person in uniform. These little actions count big time!

My way of thanking those of you serving in the military is to offer the Kindle edition of my book, Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories from Military Chaplains for the special price of $2.99 from now until Memorial Day.

Head on over to Amazon to take advantage of this offer. I can't wait for you to read the stories of these wonderful chaplains who care for the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of our men and women in uniform.  Read More 
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Chaplain Corps anniversary

On Friday, the U.S. Chaplain Corps celebrated its 237th anniversary. Congratulations, chaplains!

The U.S. military has had chaplains almost from its inception. The official start of the military chaplaincy is widely considered to be July 29, 1775. On this day, Congress recognized chaplains in the national army with a standing equal to that of captain and a monthly pay of $20.

Perhaps it was the actions of early chaplains that persuaded Congress to recognize their service in this way. Three months earlier, one Revolutionary War chaplain had impressed General George Washington with his selfless and tireless devotion to the troops. David Avery, a pastor from Vermont, served as captain of a group of his parishioners, bringing them down to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 1775 after the Battle of Lexington and Concord. There, they were assigned to a regiment and Rev. Avery became a full-time chaplain. Two months later, he saw combat at the Battle of Bunker Hill. For his service, Chaplain Avery was lauded as:

"Intrepid and fearless in battle, Unwearied in his attentions to the sick and wounded—not only nursing them with care, but as faithful to their souls as if they were of his own parish—with a love for his country so strong that it became a passion—cheerful under privations, and ready for any hardship—never losing in the turmoil of camp that warmth and glowing piety which characterizes the devoted minister of God."

Chaplains have continued serving our country, in peacetime and in war, their courage and selflessness noted and recognized time and again. Thank you again for your service, chaplains!  Read More 
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Reverse Trick-or-Treat

My faithful friend and fellow writer (and a darn good photographer, to boot!) Chaplain Jeffrey Neuberger shared a Veterans Day reflection with me this week. It is my pleasure to share it with you.

"My grandson just entered the first grade, but I think he’s on to something. This past Halloween was his first opportunity to welcome 'trick-or-treaters' at his door. He had recently moved from an apartment to a new home, and the concept of Halloween was ever on his mind, with costumes at school and the like. The first group of kids arrived and stood at the door with bags outstretched.

In the background, my daughter watched as Andrew greeted them. The trick-or-treaters held their bags wide open as he paused, and then slowly reached into each bag to retrieve a piece of candy. It was a case of reverse trick-or-treating! I can imagine the bewilderment of those kids. My daughter handled it perfectly, and after a brief explanation Andrew understood the concept and the rest of the night proceeded 'in keeping with the tradition.'

As I write this article, it’s Monday morning, the day after we honored veterans in both worship services at our church. It was really wonderful to have each of the veterans stand to be recognized. I was amazed at how many veterans were in the congregation. We also recognized three of our acolytes, each who has a parent currently deployed. In my sermon, I noted the important statistic that a mere 1 percent of our citizenry are in uniform to protect and defend the other 99 percent.

You may be asking yourself at this point what a 'reverse trick-or-treat' has to do with our veterans. It occurred to me that as citizens we are like my grandson Andrew, unknowingly taking from a bag which we should be putting into. The difference, however, is that our veterans, the men and women who serve in our military, stand before us freely offering the gift of their service for us to enjoy and appreciate as a nation. With their permission, we can reach into their 'bag' whenever we want. On this Veterans Day, give thanks for them."  Read More 
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What it takes to be a military chaplain

The chaplains I interviewed for Miracles and Moments of Grace were all over the map -- geographically speaking, of course. But also in every personal characteristic and life experience you could imagine. Many were pastors before, during or after their military service. Many had served in the military, but I also talked with chaplains who had been police officers, outdoor adventure guides, even a semi-professional skateboarder!

What does it take to be a chaplain? The list of qualifications is long. Because of this, many chaplains tend to be older than the servicemen and women they minister among. Here is a list of qualifications for the military chaplaincy that I found on the website for the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces website:

1. Ecclesiastical endorsement (certifies experience and degree requirements meet the standards of the respective ecclesiastical group)

2. Two years religious leadership consistent with clergy in applicant’s tradition (strongly recommended)

3. United States citizenship

4. Bachelor’s degree (120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours)

5. A graduate degree to include a minimum of 72 semester hours (or equivalent) from a qualifying (accredited) institution. Not less than 36 hours must be in theological/ministry and related studies, consistent with the respective religious tradition of the applicant.

Endorsers are free to exceed the DoD standard per ecclesiastical requirements, but cannot go below the minimal DoD requirements, e.g. many endorsers specifically require the Master of Divinity degree

Active Duty Chaplains
* Army: Commissioned prior to age 40 (Age waiver availability may vary from year to year)

* Air Force and Navy: Commissioned and on active duty by age 42 (Some consideration may be made for prior service)

* Pass a military commissioning physical

* Pass a security background investigation

* Ability to work in the DoD directed religious accommodation environment.

In addition to these qualifications, many of my chaplains took further training in order to understand and be able to minister alongside their comrades. For instance, one chaplain trained in airborne, so he could go along on missions.

Chaplains make a huge commitment of time in order to fulfill their calling. They don't just wander away from the pulpit and into the field. They're highly qualified and, beyond that, extremely empathetic and devoted. I loved the year I spent talking with chaplains about their ministry.  Read More 

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Ministry in times of tragedy

It was sad news this week to read of the crash of a helicopter in Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. troops.

In my forthcoming book, Miracles and Moments of Grace, I interview a chaplain who counseled the crew of a Chinook helicopter flying in tandem with a second helicopter that was shot down in Iraq. The crew helped extricate their buddies from the wreckage and treat the survivors until help arrived.

Later that night, one medic in particular needed to talk about what he'd seen and experienced that day. Everything about the incident haunted him -- the sights, the sounds, the smells. The chaplain credits this medic with saving the lives of perhaps a dozen servicemen. Yet he was traumatized by the task and he was in need himself.

This chaplain gave the medic room to mourn and prayed with him using the ancient and comforting Jewish prayer: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

That's what our military chaplains do. They stand by, they listen, they offer a comforting arm, they weep with those who weep. It's not what you read about in the news, but the military chaplain brings grace and peace to the tragic incidents we do read about. You can be sure a chaplain was on the ground to minister to those in need after the crash of the helicopter this week.  Read More 
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Stories and more stories

For the past year, I've immersed myself in stories told by military chaplains. My goal was to collect 50 stories for my upcoming book Miracles and Moments of Grace.

The stories my chaplains told were heartbreaking, touching and inspiring, and some even funny. Each time I interviewed a chaplain, I thought, "This is my favorite story!" The minute I hung up the phone or arrived back at home, I couldn't wait to start writing.

Well, my deadline finally came and I had to stop writing. But still, I continue to come across incredible stories of courage, bravery, steadfastness and godliness on the part of our military's chaplains. Just this morning, I stumbled on this page of stories on the Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches website. Especially riveting is Chaplain David Sivret's account of the bombing of the dining facility in Mosul, Iraq, on December 21, 2004, an attack that I heard of from another chaplain who was there that day.  Read More 
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The death of an Army chaplain

This morning, I read the very sad news of the Army chaplain who was killed in Afghanistan. You can read it here.

Chaplain Dale Goetz was the first Army chaplain killed in action since 1970, during the Vietnam War. The Air Force has not suffered a chaplain's death since then, and the Navy may not have either.

While writing my upcoming book, Miracles and Moments of Grace, I spoke with military chaplains from all branches of the service. Several of them told me that military personnel often view them as something of a rabbit's foot, that if they have "the Chap" with them, all will be well. Even more than that, there's an unspoken belief that chaplains themselves are exempt from harm, because they have "an in" with God.

But it doesn't always work that way. One of my chaplains tells a story of riding in a convoy in which two soldiers were killed. He grieves their loss, and is grateful his life was spared. But he told me emphatically that he doesn't believe God protects him any more than anyone else, that his life is no more precious to God than anyone else's.

The last year that I have spent speaking with military chaplains has been the most exciting and the most rewarding year of my career. I have loved telling the stories of these chaplains who are charged with the spiritual well-being of our nation's military. Though I did not know Captain Goetz, I have come to know many of his fellow chaplains. I am sorry for the Goetz family's loss.  Read More 
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