Saturday, June 25, 2011


Good comments. Another thought, not wasting all the time defending. Look at what Kermit did, all that time and energy, not to mention money and the Rabbi that worked on it and was such an asshole--he and Cecil Curry followed their efforts with a book which was good as related to the constitutionality of the chaplaincy but unnessary I thought but Kermit honestly believes he saved the chaplaincy. Please!!!  But, let us not forget how valuable we are and a commander who is on top of his situation will tell you that he'll give up almost anybody before his chaplain. We are, in fact, the poor man's shrink which to me, is chaplain talk for helping soldiers in all sorts of ways, to include being their advocate. When I was a civilian pastor, I would tell people all the time: the difference in civilian clergy and a military chaplain-- the civilian clergy will say, "Sorry about your situation, I will pray for you." The military chaplain will say, "I will pray for you. Tell me what I need to help you."

Where the chief and chiefs f..k up in my opinion is that they do like nothing in promoting our efforts. They get to be chief and somehow fall into hull defolade. If we had a chief (I don't even know who the chief is) who was on top of it, they would be aggressive and everytime we had a national ceremony or a national crisis, you would see the chaplain at the right hand of the prez or whomever or at least, visible. I'll never forget running into this store owner on Chestnut, right off the Presideo (familiar to Clyde and Lamar). He kept staring at me as I was in uniform. He said, finally, what is your job in the Army? I said, "I am a chaplain." I'll shorten this, he kept going over it, what I did, etc finally he said in the place, which must have been twenty people. "Wow, everybody, this man is a chaplain. How great. I didn't know our soldiers had chaplains." I never forgot it as this guy was so blown away by it all. All of us can come up with stories but for the general public at large, we're invisible I think. 

A last thing. Tom, I don't have much confidence that the indorsing agencies will stand up much. I might be surprised but with Jim Ammerman on the other side...just kidding. 


On Jun 25, 2011, at 6:38 AM, wrote:

I give an amen to what Clyde and Lamar have already written.   Totally disagree with needing an Atheist Chaplain!   Boy can't you imagine trying to convince some Brigade Commander that their new chaplain will be an atheist!  Especially if he was either a very strong Catholic or very conservative Protestant!  You'de never get their approval!    I'm sure you guys, like I did tried my best to take care of every person in the battalion who came to me with a problem.  We helped them, no matter what their religious preference was.  Since we don't have "Atheist services why would we need an Atheist Chaplain!   Charlie
In a message dated 6/25/2011 6:27:35 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Please check out the following:


I would be interested in your thoughts either way, whether you are willing to sign on, or if you have any reservations.



Jason Torpy
President, Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
(202)-656-MAAF (6223)

We have received a request to sign on to the efforts to add “chaplains” for atheists and freethinkers.  What say ye?




Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chaplains on PTSD

Marv., I can't remember telling you to get a life which I'm sure I did. I apologize. At one time or another, I have mostly insulted some or all of the 10 chaps. I've often questioned why I spend time with the 10 chaps, as most are way to conservative for me. The flip side of the coin is that it would be pretty dull if maybe all thought like me. I actually don't know how I arrived at this point. One advantage I have, if you want to call it an advantage is that for the last several years I've been hanging out with a bunch of guys who don't minse words, call you on everything. I have to constantly defend my views, Christianity, values, etc. And, it's the real world, they don't a bit more care who I am, etc.,i. e., the chaplain than a man in the moon--about the best thing that's happened to me since I retired. All that to say, Marv., from my perspective, you have to do what you have to do. This is just a bunch of chaplains "shootin" the breeze, giving opinions, and in general, filling time. For me, I've got eight blogs to keep up and so good material is always appreciated. My personal feeling is that in retirement, we don't have to do the things we did on active duty, i. e., often go along. If someone has thin skin or heavy duty ego, the 10 chaps is possibly not the place to be. We've lost a couple of guys who've join us but didn't like the sort of comments that followed. I think John Scott holds the record or maybe it was Bob Ennis, made it about a week. Here's an idea.
Tom, don't know how the newsletter from NCMaf or whatever they call it, got past me but I enjoyed it. Comprehensive and very impressive, even if they put the best spin on everything. And, the article about Jim Johnson was very interesting. I really have mixed emotion about the whole PTSD thing. I don't doubt that it is real and have helped lots of guys make claims from my old unit by writing support letters. I've never thought about filing a claim but think I could. For one thing, every combat chaplain can say the same thing that Jim did. And, to be perfectly honest, I have kind of always thought things like bad memories, nightmares, etc. were simply what going to war costs us. My prediction is that every troop coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan will be filing PTSD claims. They are media savvy and won't be messing around like Vietnam vets did. They understand social networking, issues like PTSD and how to file claims. And, from my perspective, more power to them. All this to say I was a little surprised at the article about Jim Johnson. I want to read his latest book.

Monday, June 06, 2011


This is the thirtieth anniversary  of the discovery or beginning of what was called at the time, "Gay Cancer." And, with a possible 40% of the population of San Francisco being gay, we could surely expect the CITY to remember this painful time with both a commemorization and great depth of sadness.

I arrived in San Francisco during the height of the epidemic. Deaths were, for a lack of a better term, almost common place. I was assigned to be the AIDS ward (about 25 beds) chaplain at Letterman Army Medical Center on the Presideo.  Letterman at that time was a 250 bed teaching hospital and saw itself as a front runner in patient care for the soldier population, plus a huge retired military population. Letterman had been designated as the repository for HIV soldiers for the entire Pacific Rim.

The military with socially traumatic incidents like HIV positive did what they do best in such situations, they "deny." But, to the military's credit, they allowed docs or anybody to do as much or as little as they wanted. I remember distinctly a young physician (fellow) telling me, "here is a good chance to learn something about a disease that nobody knows anything about." (What we needed was a TV character like "House," totally unbelievable but the program always has exotic diseases as the docs called them. They are mysteries anHpuse, of course, solves them).  But, the military treated the patients the best they could and discharged them. At that time, AIDS was almost a hundred percent associated with the gay community.

I had some pretty sad experiences during my involvement. Two stick out. A patient said to me, "Chaplain, we can't find a place to have a memorial for a friend, any chance we could use the chapel?" Without thinking, I said, "Sure." Later on I thought, 'damn, I'm going to get my ass in a sling for this.' Sure enough, somebody ratted me out and I received a memo from the XO (second in command) that the chapel was not to be used without ecpressed permission of the Commander. The Secretary brought the memo to me and said, something like, "who should I call to cancel out tonight's memorial." I had to think on my feet here. (I discovered  down the road that she is the one who had perpetrated the drama) No, I'll take care of it."
I did nothing. At the services which were very moving, I will have to admit that I had somewhat of a strange feeling. I remember it like yesterday. Every single person I'n the service was male. Maybe 200 males, not a single female.

The other experience, among many, was equally sad. This one guy, a young sergeant and his pardner were the nicest two you could imagine. They exuded kindness. My earthy demeanor surely could have used some of their nature. They had been together a few years. I never pried and if something came out in the course of the experience, I filed it away. These guys were funny, well read, delightful in every way. One day on my rounds, I encountered the mother and father of one of them. I actually showed them to the room. Their son was very sick. The situation was very strained. Obviously the parents didn't approve of what they called they called, the "homosexual environment." I didn't do a good job of interacting with the parents and could probly psychobabble why. In what seemed lile no time, a their son died. They claimed his body, made arrangements for him to be shipped back to Minnesota and left. A couple of days later, the pardner came to see me. He relayed a story that made me profoundly sad. The parents were Lutheran, basically wete estranged from their son and did not accept the pardner. He was heartbroken. I felt so bad. Why the deceased did not leave some sort of will or detail arrangements,  I don't know. Very, very sad.