Senior Presbyterian military chaplain addresses Fort Hood killings

Reject retribution, ‘respond as shepherds,’ Hoffman says

November 6, 2009

LOUISVILLE

LOUISVILLE — A top-ranking retired Presbyterian military chaplain wrote today to the head of the Presbyterian Council on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP) in the wake of the horrific mass killings at Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday rejecting “the natural and immediate response of retribution.”

Instead, said Brigadier General (Ret.) Wayne H. Hoffman in his letter to PCCMP director the Rev. Ed Brogan,” the challenge is to respond as shepherds of a flock that has been raided, wounded, and some of them killed.” 

Hoffmann is a long term Army Reserve Chaplain. He was the senior Army Reserve chaplain when he served as the Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Affairs in the mid 1990s. Since retirement, he has been a great supporter of chaplains and of the PCCMP. He did interpretation and development work for the PCCMP.  He was the National President of the Military Chaplain Association, and now he is President of the Army Chaplaincy Regimental Association, a voluntary association of chaplains and chaplain assistants from the Army both actively serving and retired.

Most of the First Cavalry Division, which is currently deployed in Iraq, is based at Fort Hood. Their Division Chaplain is the Rev. Barbara Sherer, a PC(USA) minister member of Cimarron Presbytery. Though no PC(USA) chaplains were on the base during the attack, some of their families were present. Retired Presbyterian chaplains are all around the post. 

“We pray for healing for the soldiers and families after this horrific attack,” Brogan said. “We also join with the American Muslim community in calling for interfaith compassion and support for all of those involved at Fort Hood. This attack must not drive a wedge between loyal Americans.”

Brogan appealed for prayers from all Presbyterians. “Our soldiers are proud and self reliant.  Many are also worn down by years of service in war,” he said.  “I ask that all of our congregations look to support military personnel and their families in their communities and pray for those killed on Thursday and also those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The full text of Hoffman’s statement, relayed Friday morning to PCCMP director Ed Brogan:

“The words, ‘these are times that try men’s souls’ are more than appropriate in response to this tragedy at ft. Hood. Our natural and immediate response is retribution ... but the challenge is to respond as shepherds of a flock that has been raided, wounded, and some of them killed. 

“We all know that the original symbol of the army chaplain was the shepherd’s crook. Now is the time to rededicate ourselves to that role ... not only for those in the Ft. Hood community, but for all the communities in which we find ourselves. 

“The immediate response of the masses is retribution, anger, and hostility. The role of the chaplaincy is to mitigate this response and recognize that anger needs to be vented, and then pastoral care exercised to those who are frustrated as how to go forward.

“Put this in context: you all have been involved in receiving emotional energy from soldiers and families for years. It is suspected that this doctor ‘broke’ under the stress. Diagnosis is pending. Our role as shepherds and caregivers is to mitigate retribution and channel energy into caring for soldiers and their families.

“The bigger picture is that reservists and national guard troops are returning home and taking off their uniforms and donning ‘civvies’ ... but are walking wounded. Who is going to care for them? We are.

"Remember, that the church family has a greater responsibility to ‘care for the caregivers.’

“Take this episode as a challenge to go forward with energy of the Spirit ... and do so ‘for God and country’ (Pro deo pro patria)."

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