Chaplains spread hope amidst COVID-19 crisis

By Cpl. Hannah Clifton | Indiana National Guard Headquarters | May 6, 2020


During unprecedented times, anxiety, fear and worry can fester and spread from individuals, families and communities. While these negative emotions are often justified, the weight of such lofty burdens can make it incredibly difficult to persevere through a crisis.

Hundreds of Indiana National Guard airmen and soldiers implemented resiliency while they diligently performed their duties on the frontlines of COVID-19. Suddenly leaving families, dealing with unemployment or the worry of a loved one becoming ill furthered potential for emotional stress. However, Indiana National Guard chaplains from across the state helped support service members emotionally and spiritually so they could continue to carry on fighting the pandemic.

“We are by trade, religious leaders. We are there to give spiritual advice and to council when soldiers ask for it,” said Maj. Cliff Pappe, full-time support chaplain with the 135th Chaplain Detachment. “I think any time a [lower enlisted] soldier sees an officer get in there and help or get out there to talk to them, it boosts their spirits and lets them know that someone really does care about them.”

Chaplains provided spiritual guidance and served as an essential resource for service members, especially during the pandemic crisis. Operationally, chaplains tracked service members and their missions across the state to better serve them in time of need.

Before a crisis strikes, chaplains participate in military training to understand how to track service members’ locations and work to understand their roles in the fight. These imperative skills help chaplains anticipate the spiritual, emotional and psychological strife service members potentially face. This training creates readiness to assist soldiers and airmen on the frontlines during a crisis.

Chaplains worked to be intentionally visible to all personnel working on the front lines during the state’s COVID-19 response. For many service members, knowing that they had someone to talk to and lean on was enough to increase morale and lift spirits.

“Being intentionally visible boosts morale a lot,” said Sgt. Sheryl Grubb, chaplain assistant with the 38th Infantry Division, “If the chaplains are visible, I’ve seen the soldiers be much more responsive, and they grin because they know that’s someone who is intentionally there for their morale.”

The chaplains also offer additional resources and programs such as financial guidance, Strong Bonds, and resiliency training.

“Showing them that you care, that’s the biggest thing,” said Pappe. “Once you show someone that you care for them, they’ll start to open up to you, share with you and realize that you are there to see how they are doing as an individual.”

Whether through a formal course or a casual conversation, leading by example through grace, empathy and understanding, chaplains worked to spread hope through all ranks amidst the COVID-19 crisis.