By Chaplain (MAJ) B. Vaughn Bridges, Warrior Transition Brigade Chaplain, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Guest Blogger*
In October 2013, I began serving as the Warrior Transition Brigade (WTB) Chaplain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland. Shortly after my arrival at the WTB, I had the privilege of meeting with WTB Soldiers and their Families at our monthly evening meal in the Navy Lodge. This setting provides many ministry opportunities for military personnel who have been wounded in combat, injured and those with illnesses and other medical concerns.
Every day presents its own unique challenges and opportunities for ministry. As one example, a Soldier and her mother requested to speak with me when I arrived in my new position as WTB chaplain. They just wanted to come by to say hello and have a discussion about spiritual matters, just like they had done with the former WTB Chaplain. The Soldier explained to me that when she first received the news from the doctor that her condition was incurable, she put her trust in God to help her cope with such a hopeless prognosis. She also recalled her own experience with despair when the doctors said there was nothing else they could do. As I reflected on our conversation, I was astonished with the Soldier’s faith and acceptance and her ability to reflect, having the personal awareness to articulate her thoughts and feelings as she embraced this difficult challenge in her life.
This Soldier, knowing that she might not be healed, experienced a crisis of faith. She chose to have hope in God. During our conversation, I was reminded of the words of the late great preacher and theologian James S. Stewart from Scotland. Stewart wrote, “Let us consider the most inescapable ‘Either/Or’ of life; either despair – or faith. Either blank, unrelieved pessimism, or a gambler’s throw with your soul. Either darkness and futility and ultimate night, or the vision of God standing within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
Ministry with wounded, ill and injured warriors provides us with many teachable moments. My own faith increases and is strengthened when I meet people like this Soldier who choose to embrace life’s struggles with such courage and resilience. As the WTB chaplain, I seek to offer hope as I build and nurture relationships with these warriors by listening to their story.
*Note: The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.