FORT BRAGG — When Chris
Carson served as an infantry battalion chaplain in Iraq he was familiar with
less than ideal conditions. He went days without a shower and re-used paper
plates. Carson jumped out of airplanes just like the other soldiers.
So, just over a year ago
when Carson came to work with the Warrior Transition Battalion, a nondeployable
unit in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, he expected life as a
chaplain to settle down.
“Boy, was I wrong,” Carson
said during an interview at his Fort Bragg office. The job is definitely not
9-5 and the reality of death and incredibly tough circumstances is as real here
as it is overseas.
As one of two chaplains
assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, Carson works with about 500 sick
and wounded soldiers. Some will heal and return to active duty, but most will
be medically discharged. Some soldiers are from the Fort Bragg area but many
Because injured soldiers are
assigned to a hospital best suited to meet their needs, many with brain/head
injuries come to Womack Army Medical Center in Fayetteville. For some that
means they are nowhere close to home, family or friends.
A new outreach is underway
that will give North Carolina Baptists the chance to join Carson in ministering
to the soldiers of the Warrior Transition Battalion. The vision for the Wounded
Warriors Ministry is to help match individuals, as well as local churches, with
specific needs of soldiers.
The ministry is an outreach
of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Office of Military and
Chaplaincy Ministries, led by Col. Larry Jones, BSC senior consultant for
military and chaplaincy ministry. Jones has been a military chaplain for 29
years. As state chaplain for the North Carolina National Guard he manages
chaplains, chaplain candidates and chaplain assistants in the North Carolina
Army and Air National Guard.
Volunteers can contribute in
various ways: sitting in a hospital waiting room with a soldier’s family or
visiting the soldier in the hospital. They could bring meals to family waiting
at the hospital, help with childcare or even visit at home the spouse of a
hospitalized solider. Sometimes a spouse needs help with chores around the
house while the injured soldier recovers.
“Anything we can do to help
them opens up a door for us to witness,” Jones said.
Last year Carson started an
Jones is hopeful that
churches will consider making Fayetteville a unique kind of mission trip.
Church groups would come and spend the week “on call” for the chaplains, ready
to serve however needed. Since this may not be the type of mission trip
churches are accustomed to, Jones will even help churches with training, such
as how to do a hospital visit. A low-cost lodging option is the N.C. Baptist
Men Missions Camp facility at Red Springs.
Although the Wounded
Warriors Ministry is still in the infant stage, several soldiers already have
been helped. Carson and Jones are working together to match up the gifts and
skills of volunteers with the needs of soldiers.
“The needs are so complex,”
In addition to ministering
to the wounded, Carson preaches every Sunday, leads a weekly Bible study, holds
counseling sessions and plans retreats. The chaplains can’t do everything, and
more people will be ministered to as a result of the Wounded Warrior Ministry.
Carson has no doubt that volunteers will be greatly rewarded through
involvement in this ministry.
Just seeing the look on
someone’s face when he comes to visit them in the hospital can be enough to
remind him of the importance of this outreach. It doesn’t take much to make a
difference. “You can just listen,” he said. “Just be with the soldiers.”
To learn how your church can
get involved in ministering to wounded warriors, or for more information about
the Office of Military and Chaplaincy Ministries, e-mail Jones at