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Chaplain's Corner: A present reminder of hope in the midst of darkness

By Tech. Sgt. Kristina Decot | JBER Chapel Center | Feb. 19, 2015


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

Have you ever made a list of things you wanted to start doing, like exercising more, going to bed early, eating healthy, spending more time with your family? I have  made many lists of things I want to start doing - however, recently I decided to make a list of things I wanted to stop doing.

One of those things is telling my generic Air Force story.

When people ask me what I do in the Air Force, to avoid long conversations, and questions I don't want to an-swer, I tell them I just do "administrative work." Nobody questions admin work. It's not that I'm ashamed to say what I do; in fact I am very proud of what I do, but I'm partly protecting people who ask, because I don't believe they really want to hear the answer.

Being in the Air Force, and sharing what I do is difficult. People I meet think Airmen don't see war; they only fly planes. I understand because our mission is to "Fly, fight,  and win." What I do in the Air Force is not well un-derstood, yet so crucial. So what do I do? What follows is what I do and why I continue to feel honored to serve.

I am a chaplain's assistant in the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force has technical descriptions of my job - providing for religious freedoms, ensuring religious needs of the military community are met, and serving as a visible reminder of the holy. Some military people think our main job is to smile and pass out candy; however, the essence of my job is simply to be a reminder of hope in the midst of darkness ... and at times, yes, that can mean passing out candy.

I was there for a Soldier when the reality hit that his brother was not coming home from war. I led him to the chaplain where he received a glimpse of hope.

I was there outside a convoy in the middle of the night, as a grown man wept in my arms at the loss of another one of his friends as the chaplain said a silent prayer.

I was there cleaning out a young Soldier's pockets after an improvised explosive device took his life, and looking at pictures of his sweet young wife. I cleaned the blood off the picture and his wedding band with such detail; I thought I was going to go insane. I knew his widow would receive those items and I didn't want any trace of war on his precious wedding band.

I was there wrapping blankets around mothers, husbands, daughters, and sons on the flightline at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, as they wept for their loved ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice and ultimately came home in a flag-draped transfer case.

I was there helping Airmen fit fallen heroes for their uniform, straightening every last ribbon, with dignity, honor and respect; ensuring the ribbons look perfect for the family. I've worked alongside the embalmers, encouraging them as they do their best to reconstruct a face marred by shrapnel wounds to the head.

I was there protecting the chaplain as we traveled to remote outposts in Afghanistan to set up worship services and hoping to bring a sense of hope and peace to those who have seen sights more horrible than Hollywood could ever portray on a movie screen.

I have had military members come up to me after a tragic incident and thank me for what I did. To this day, I cannot tell you what I did, except that I was just simply there - during the worst days of their lives, whether it's holding a hand of a brokenhearted Soldier, or wrapping a blanket around a widow.

I don't say these things to brag or boast about myself, but to show the importance of just being present. People may never remember what you do for them in times of grief and sadness, but they may remember that you were there for them.

People often ask, "How can you do it? Why do you continue to serve?" I believe the real question is, "How could I not continue to serve?" My experiences have created such a fierce loyalty to my brother-and sister-in-arms, that doing anything other than serving my country would be a disservice. 

I continue to serve because I never want to stop "being there" for the brothers and sisters I serve with every day. I want to provide them with the best possible spiritual care, even if that's just "being there."

I made a list of things I wanted to stop doing. Today, I cross one those things off my list. Today, I stop telling my generic Air Force story.

Today, I share what it truly means to be a chaplain's assistant, the light in the midst of darkness. Today, I share why I will continue to serve ... because I never want to stop being a reminder of hope in the midst of their hell.