Lt. Cmdr. Kim Donohue
Chaplain, Marine Corps Base Quantico
I think most ministers, before they follow a calling to
be a chaplain, have to wrestle with themselves or with
colleagues over serving in the military and their rationale why — just war and all those kind of issues. For me,
it was a real coming to terms with the reality of the
world as it is, that there are some powers that only
respond to the presence of military power. I thought
that no doubt I would see some wartime service. I just
didn’t think it would be quite so soon.
I was deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Carl
Vinson on 9/11. The air wing was waiting to man the
no-fly zone over Iraq. I woke up from a nap, and everyone was watching what I thought was a B-rated movie.
I walked into the ready room and said, “Turn that off,
this is horrible, why would you even watch that?” And
they said, “No, chaplain, this is live.”
We waited until we got orders on what to do. And
that was a very difficult time to wait, while also handling Red Cross messages for crew members who had
family that worked at the World Trade Center or nearby. It was a very tense time. Serving on the ship with
people who were processing their own part in the war
on terror — that was a privilege to help people to talk
about what they were thinking and feeling.
In a time of war, people are facing their mortality and
do some soul-searching and reckoning. What is life all
about? What is my life about? Is there a life after death?
People come up against those questions when they
have stopped taking life as they know it for granted.
One of the most wonderful gifts that we give, as
chaplains, to every military member is the gift of confidentiality, one of the most sacred trusts that any two
human beings can have. We are the only individuals
within the military that have absolute confidentiality.
In those moments of questioning, people can come
forward with experiences that they want or need to
talk about and they don’t know who to talk to. So
we’re there to catch that. ■
Iwas a minister in three different churches and a hospital chaplain prior to joining the Navy. In the hospital, I found myself in the position of training Army
chaplains. One of my students said, “Ma’am, you
should join the military.”
I thought for sure I was too old. I called a recruiter
because I wanted to find out more about chaplaincy in
the military so I could really do a good job with these
students. At 39, I came in under an age waiver, so I was
the “grandma” of my chaplain class.
As I would talk with people about their service, it
was the World War II vets that were really starting to
talk about their experiences. It seems there is a time of
silence when one comes back from the war, wrestles
with what happened and comes to terms with it before
talking about it openly with others.
There would almost be that sense of, “Wow, I’m glad
someone’s finally asking me, and I really need to talk
about it.” I didn’t want people of my own generation
and of younger generations to have to wait to talk
about what they’ve experienced.
“As I would talk with people about their service, it was the World War II vets that
were really starting to talk about their experiences. It seems there is a time of
silence when one comes back from the war, wrestles with what happened and