‘Comforted by their faith’

Published November 1, 2010
Lieutenant Navy Carol Bateman is a battle group chaplain who travels to visit the troops at forward operating bases in combat zones. She usually spends three to five days in each location.
Lt. Navy Carol Bateman
Lt. Navy Carol Bateman

During these visits, she connects with the soldiers, often letting personnel know she’s in camp by serving meals. “Everyone, of course, eats…and you get a feel for what the morale is, if they’ve had a rough day, if they’ve had a good day.” She offers a worship service during the visit and talks with anyone who has a specific family concern or who has expressed a need to talk with a chaplain.

Since Bateman arrived in April, there have been combat injuries and losses. “We’ve had our share, unfortunately,” she says. When a soldier is killed, all efforts are made to bring in personnel from that company for the ramp ceremony. For those personnel who can’t attend, Bateman travels back out into the field to conduct another memorial service for the dead soldier’s comrades. These observances help, she says, “but they don’t answer all the questions. The death of a close friend can both challenge and affirm [a person’s faith], all in a two-to-three day period,” she says.

The main task for any chaplain serving in Afghanistan, says Bateman, is to “be present”—as soldiers leave for patrol, in the back of a vehicle on a road move, in the flying kitchen, at the card game, officiating at a ramp ceremony or at Sunday service.

“Sometimes there are conversations, sometimes questions, sometimes jokes, sometimes silence,” she explains. “I find comfort in the soldiers’ abilities, in their persistent work ethic, in their camaraderie, in their willingness to share. I am comforted by their faith. I am comforted by the words of scripture and the emails of support from friends.” —LAW Ω

Author

  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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