What the Army Taught Me

I grew up wanting to be a high school civics teacher. I wanted to teach high schoolers to care about their world and inspire them to change it. My life and career took a different path. 7 years of vocational ministry doing urban, rural, and suburban ministry serving as a Family Life Pastor before commissioning as an Army officer and joining the Chaplain Corps where my world was reframed.

 

The Army enabled me to see people, life, ministry, and spirituality through a different paradigm. It empowered me to do ministry outside of the 4 church walls. I was able to love God and people while serving both. I got to go to train at the best schools, hospitals, trauma centers, and bases meeting the most giving and dedicated people. I got to spend summers providing spiritual care to Cadets getting ready to commission as Army officers.

I got to teach families how to re-acclimate and reintegrate post combat. I got to teach leaders how to respond and care for Soldiers wanting to end their life by suicide.

 

The most impactful experience for me out of the 6 years that I served was the 3 years as the Lead Instructor for Strong Bonds. That assignment enabled me to teach, inspire, and get to know over 3500 Soldiers and their families in over 19 states! I've had the opportunity to walk into people's lives help them to live better lives, have healthier relationships, and be the fullest expression of themselves. In this I've also actualized my own passions more.

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 I transitioned from chaplaincy to behavioral health with the intention of helping people pursue holistic well being- not only in spirit but in body, soul, and mind. The Army provided a forum for me to learn, flourish, and thrive. The Army took who I was and made me better.

My commitment to Soldiers and their families is strong, but looks different these days. Directing a behavioral health program for the Army I make sure that as I teach Soldiers, develop training for leaders, write policies, manage crisis, and counsel that Soldier's well-being is the penultimate of what I do.

When our service members take the oath of enlistment and of office, they are pledging to defend the constitution and enemies of our nation both foreign and domestic. Service members and their families face innumerable obstacles and challenges throughout their time serving. The least that we can do as caregivers, policy makers, and leaders is to ensure that when they cry out for help that we not only hear them, but have education, training, policy, and qualified people in place who are committed to being ready, willing, and able to step in and intervene so that that Soldier can feel that the community they've pledged their life to is committed to their well-being, safety, and flourishing. That includes us, Army leaders, their families, and the local community. Our commitment to their holistic well-being must be even more important than our combat plans, mission calendars, and due outs.

My goal is to get leaders asking our Soldiers questions so they know how to show up and intervene when a Soldier's life comes crashing before them. When someone is in crisis, we can show up and be present in their lives by asking, "Are you ok?" "Would you like to talk about it?" and "Can we go get help?" When we ask those questions, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with our Soldiers- not just as a catchy slogan but an affirmation with our actions. We have to change our paradigms so that compassionate care and leadership is at the spear of what we do.

Sometimes we have our plans and until we're given an opportunity we don't recognize our full capacity. I'm grateful for the Army and more importantly, the people in it for helping me realize mine.