Whether in the Navy or the National Guard, from combat to noncombat or civilian contractor positions, our military servicepeople aren't alone.
Active-duty military chaplains from various denominations and faiths (the ELCA has 120), serve alongside them. These chaplains minister to the military community wherever they are, a constant reminder of God's presence.
That presence often means "accompanying them into harm's way, preaching, counseling, administering sacraments and, perhaps, comforting the wounded and dying," says retired Chaplain Col. Ivan G. Ives, who serves as the assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop for federal chaplaincies. "Other chaplains will care for those who are left behind — bringing peace and assurance to a community often laden with loneliness and anxiety. Sometimes they help with the multitude of ‘forgotten things’ that remain when we try to get our lives together in a hurry to face separation and the unknown."
Church leaders and theologians are also part of the discussion about peace and justice options, Ives says, and they raise questions about how, when or if military force is appropriate. "There is usually a long period of buildup before we read the newspaper headline ‘President orders troops into ...’ For months the media has reported on strained relations, diplomacy, discussion and debate between various nations and governments.
"If warfare seems a possibility, various aspects of the 'just war' doctrine (See "We must say ‘no’", p.66, October 2002) may be brought to bear in hopes this doctrine, developed and used over the centuries, may help balance the immediacy of our feelings. Others may speak in terms of a ‘just peace.’"
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