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Chaplains more than just preachers

By Sgt. David A. Bryant | | August 8, 2002

Chaplains are well-known for leading religious services aboard Marine Corps bases. They are also famous for following their Marines into battle to take care of spiritual needs during combat. Preaching from the pulpit, or the battlefield, and running Sunday School or Confraternity of Christian Doctrine isn't the only thing the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Chaplain's Office does.

"We provide the basics you'll find at any church," said Cmdr. Emilio Marrero Jr., the station chaplain-in-charge of Protestant services. "But there are also many other services we provide, even for those who are not of a religious nature."

The chaplain's office also offers marriage-preparatory classes, which is an educational course for marriage enhancement designed for those who are looking to get married or are still newlyweds. They are also heavily involved with supporting the Key Volunteers and Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge and Skills programs, two programs run by and for spouses of active-duty military.

Chaplains work with Family Services and the station psychologist as well to provide Critical Incident Stress Debriefs.

"We help people to deal with tragedies and traumatic situations," said Marrero. "Whether someone had an incident happen to them personally, or if they are just in a situation to help others out during a bad accident, it can cause stresses that may affect their personal and work lives. Sometimes these are done in group settings and sometimes individually."

One big project the chaplain's office is involved in is volunteer work, he said. Currently, the office supports three orphanages in Mexico with volunteer services, financial and material aid. The Protestant congregation sponsors one orphanage, and the Catholic congregations sponsors two.

An important part of their job is counseling, whether it is personal, marriage, spiritual or religious counseling, said Marrero.

"One thing about coming to a chaplain is the level of confidentiality," he said. "There is no fear of what you say getting back to your command, so it's a safe place to come. For some problems there is the possibility we may have to get the command involved at some point to help solve the problem, but we work up to that point and only if necessary to solve the problem."

A person doesn't even have to be of the same religion as the chaplain they talk to, or even be a religious person for that matter, said Marrero. They are not "chaplains of all trades" who are able to lead services for any religion, as they only answer to the hierarchy of their particular religion. However, they like to make themselves available for anyone who needs them, of whatever faith, and whether they are active duty, dependants or retirees.

The majority of their time is spent taking care of Marines, Sailors and their families, said Lt. Cmdr. James A. Gay, the station chaplain-in-charge of all Catholic activities.

"It doesn't matter what their religion, or even if they have no religious affiliation," he said. "There is a valid distinction to make. While not every human being is religious, all humans are spiritual, meaning they have a spiritual side that needs to be nurtured, whether that is a need to go out and revel in nature or listening to music."

If a Marine, Sailor, retiree or dependant has a need, that is what chaplains take care of, he said.

"We (chaplains) all work together," said Gay. "Sometimes our job takes us to hospitals, prisons or even special courts."

Although religion guides the chaplains in their service, they are not there to push religion on those in need, he said.

However, those who are looking for a place to worship, need a baptism or confirmation done, or just in need of a place to say "I do", the station chapel offers all these services. Just talk to the station chaplains for more information.`
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