Chaplains at Fort Hood face range of needs

Baptist Press
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 5:45 PM
FORT HOOD, Texas (BP)--Army chaplains working at Fort Hood have been in near perpetual motion since Thursday's deadly shootings, providing immediate support to the wounded at area hospitals and to first responders, emergency medical teams, victims' families and teams charged with notifying the families of the dead, Army Chaplain (Col.) Frank Jackson said.

"We support the notification officer and then support the families through pastoral care once the notification is made," said Jackson, a Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplain who, as the garrison chaplain, oversees all religious services and programs on the Army base.

Jackson said 55 chaplains, some from other bases, are at Fort Hood but are spread thin as families of victims arrive and as chaplains partner with behavioral health teams to help those who witnessed the tragedy in what Jackson termed "psychological first-aid meetings." Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is the alleged gunman who killed 14 people, including one pre-born baby, and wounded 29 others.

"The chaplains are there to support those involved and to provide pastoral care as those persons require it," Jackson told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. "We have great chaplains who have done an amazing amount of work in the last four days in making sure that families and soldiers and support personnel and those involved in the incident are treated with dignity and respect and encouraged and bring some healing and reconciliation. That's what we do."

The chaplains also are heavily involved in the planning of a base memorial service planned for 2 p.m. EST Tuesday, with the president and first lady reportedly planning to attend.

Jackson said there was a mood of anticipation on the base Monday about Tuesday's memorial service, which he said would hopefully "give those involved a point of reference to look back to as a transition time in the grieving process. It should be very, very powerful.

"And then, the people who have been the caregivers at this point have gotten a little tired. And so we're trying to adjust schedules to make sure they are getting the rest cycle they need so that they can provide care when it needs to be provided later on down the road."

Jackson said Southern Baptists can pray that God would grant the chaplains the grace to continue the mission long term, and to identify people who need encouragement or who didn't process their grief adequately.

"You don't have this happen every day," Jackson said. "The old adage is true that you don't want to deal with feelings dead; deal with them alive."

Jackson said the motto of his office is found in the Apostle Paul's exhortations to "remain steadfast" and to "not grow weary on well doing."

"We have to take care of one another so that we may take care of others," he said.

Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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