I often get asked, “Chaplain, you hear everyone else’s problems. Who do you talk to when you’re having a hard time?”
I share, “I’m blessed to have a God I can go to at any time, and my wife, Amber is my best friend. Without her support I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”
But there’s one other group that helps.
I was told when I started ministry that I needed some lifelong peers to make it as a minister. As a result, I have a handful of friends with whom I’m close; one is a chaplain, one is a lawyer and one is an engineer. I was in most of their weddings, they were in mine. I have other close friends, but with these three, I talk to them weekly, and we see each other when we’re nearby. We share our lives, hold each other accountable, seek counsel, share about our families, pray for each other and laugh a lot. However, life isn’t always easy; one of them is going through a painful divorce, and two of them lost their father a year ago. Additionally, the “tyranny of the urgent,” work, family, my own selfishness can get in the way of maintaining the relationship. Nevertheless, because we invested in each other, I’m not alone.
Senior leaders of both enlisted and officers have told me how lonely it is at the top. Others, who near retirement, have shared how scared they are to leave the military. They’re fearful at facing a crowd who doesn’t think, act, or have the same situations they had in their life. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons so many retirees and veterans frequent military chapels? Growing up, my dad had a group of fellow veterans that always made time to stop by our house. Conversely, we would do the same. I remember their names, Tom DeHaven, Jack Boudreaux, Jay McCormack, and Jim Paige. They spent time together in the Army and while deployed. I don’t know what they did, but whatever it was forged a lifelong bond that I watched over the years. My son, Jude, asked me the other day, “Dad, why do you do it? Why do you continue to be a chaplain in the Air Force?” I answered, “Son, for me one of the biggest incentives are the relationships I’ve been privileged to enjoy. They’re special in the military. They keep me going.”
In my faith tradition, Solomon said this, “Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls the other will pick him up. Woe to the man who is alone.”
It saddens me that in our age of such great connectivity via social media, so many in our armed forces are depressed, hurting, fearful and alone. When was the last time you picked up the phone to call that old friend to check in on them? When was the last time you made time to see that couple you and your spouse used to hang out with?
Solomon also said, “A friend loves at all times, and there is a brother born for adversity.”
There are many reasons I am thankful I get to serve our nation, but when I finally retire, I hope I will have a group of men like my dad did, who continue to maintain and stay in a friendship with me. At the end of the day, I hope to have their “six” because I need them to have mine.
For more information, or to speak with a chaplain, call the Luke Air Force Base Chapel at 623-856-6211.