INDIANAPOLIS – During unprecedented times, anxiety, fear and worry can fester and spread from individuals, families and communities. While these negative emotions are often justified, the weight of such burdens can make it difficult to persevere through a crisis.
Hundreds of Indiana National Guard Airmen and Soldiers on the frontlines of COVID-19 have had to deal with the emotional stress of suddenly leaving their families, unemployment or worrying about a loved one becoming ill. However, Indiana National Guard chaplains from across the state helped support service members emotionally and spiritually so they could continue to carry on fighting the pandemic.
“We are, by trade, religious leaders. We are there to give spiritual advice and to counsel when Soldiers ask for it,” said Maj. Cliff Pappe, full-time support chaplain with the 135th Chaplain Detachment. “I think any time a [lower enlisted] Soldier sees an officer get in there and help or get out there to talk to them, it boosts their spirits and lets them know that someone really does care about them.”
Chaplains provided spiritual guidance and served as an essential resource for service members, especially during the pandemic. Operationally, chaplains tracked service members and their missions across the state to better help them.
Before a crisis, chaplains participate in military training to understand how to track service members’ locations and understand their roles in the fight. This helps chaplains anticipate the spiritual, emotional and psychological strife service members may face.
Chaplains worked to be visible to all Guard members during the state’s COVID-19 response. For many service members, knowing that they had someone to talk to and lean on was enough to increase morale and lift spirits.
“Being intentionally visible boosts morale a lot,” said Sgt. Sheryl Grubb, chaplain assistant with the 38th Infantry Division. “If the chaplains are visible, I’ve seen the Soldiers be much more responsive, and they grin because they know that’s someone who is intentionally there for their morale.”
The chaplains also offer resources and programs such as financial guidance and resiliency training.
“Showing them that you care, that’s the biggest thing,” said Pappe. “Once you show someone that you care for them, they’ll start to open up to you, share with you and realize that you are there to see how they are doing as an individual.”
Whether through a formal course or a casual conversation, leading by example through grace, empathy and understanding, chaplains worked to spread hope through all ranks during the COVID-19 crisis.