Serving Those Who Serve

Caring for our Nation's Veterans

The timing was perfect, Veterans Day heads into the holidays," says Ron Craddock, chief chaplain at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia. "We'd already handed out many [Bibles] — they were going fast."

James R. Taylor, chief chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida, wrote, "I would like you to know those for whom you will be providing this spiritual comfort . . . We have some of the nation's most severely wounded from this current war."

This was the most recent effort made by the American Bible Society to provide both the active military chaplaincy and the cadre of VA chaplains with Scripture resources suitable for the spiritual needs of our armed forces personnel.

Scars of Battle

Armed Services Ministry Manager, Rev. Thomas May, worked with Jeni Cook, associate director of the National VA Chaplain Center, to offer Bibles to her 900 chaplain colleagues serving some 5.5 million U.S. veterans.

The Bible Society received orders for more than 40,000 Scriptures in Spanish and English. Among the 22 items ABS made available were audio New Testaments in CD and MP3 format and Bible and New Testament versions in large and extra large print.

"In the past," said Rev. May, a director at the Bible Society, "we have focused on providing Bibles and New Testaments for active duty personnel, and that's important. But we also have a real concern for the whole life cycle of those who serve our country and for their families. Compared to military personnel on active duty, there are more than three and a half times as many people under VA care. These are those who carry the scars of battle."

Special Needs

Many VA chaplains speak of the special needs of veteran soldiers. As the chaplain responsible for a rehab unit for the blind, Chaplain Craddock was particularly grateful for the audio New Testaments ABS offers in CD and MP3 format. He wrote, "My patients range from blind to going blind. It's so much easier for them to listen to the audio Scriptures. We've purchased two CD players our patients can check out — they think the audio Bible is wonderful."

As part of the Veteran's Day celebration at the Norwood VA Center, different organizations set up booths to display the various services they offer. The chaplains set out their booth of ABS Scriptures.

"We gave out quite a few," said Chaplain Craddock. "Veterans were thanking us from the bottom of their hearts; just to see their smiles and hear their thankfulness at getting these Bibles - we saw that getting copies of God's Word inspired joy in them."

Freeing Up Funds

Chaplain Jim Durham, who ministers at the Muskogee VA Medical Center in Oklahoma, reports, "Normally, the only money we have available to purchase Scriptures comes from the honorariums we sometimes get for speaking or doing weddings."

Alongside these Scripture Resources, the Bible Society works with the VA chaplains to make available a series of "God Understands" Scripture Portions - booklets on topics such as guilt, anger and fear of death. Rev. May explained that this series of eight Scripture Portions has been tailored for areas of counseling germane to the needs of Veterans suffering from issues related to "Post Tramautic Stress Disorder."

Many chaplains comment on the popularity among vets of the largeprint Bibles, especially veterans injured in earlier conflicts like Vietnam or Korea. "We give out 30 to 50 Bibles a month," said Chief Chaplain Clifton Montgomery who, along with his cadre of seven other chaplains, works with hospitalized vets at the Jesse Brown Medical Center in Chicago. "But we're not in the business of distributing Bibles. We give them out only as requested while we do our rounds on the wards. Patients most often ask for the large print KJV or GNT versions. We could not effectively meet the needs of vets and their families without ABS."

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