No matter their service branch, each Veteran is familiar with Chaplains. They have served alongside their fellow service members since the days of the Revolution. It makes sense, then, that they serve a prominent role across the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In the days of a nationwide COVID-19 response, their role is vital for both Veterans and employees, according to Dwayne Brown, Chief Chaplain with the Roseburg VA Health Care System.
“This is an extremely stressful time,” said Brown. “It is impossible to maintain a high level of activity and constant vigilance without some down time. It’s easy for people to isolate during these times and we need to remind ourselves to keep reaching out to others for their as well as our own benefit.”
Though social distancing to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus, spiritual support is still available for both Veterans and RVAHCS employees, according to Brown.
“I am grateful for the many ways we can continue to stay in contact with others through the phone and all other virtual means,” said Brown. “Speaking as a Chaplain, we recommend spiritual resources such as prayer, scripture reading and study, worship – virtual now – church or other spiritual group connection. Humans are relational creatures and we need to maintain connection with God and other people however we can in safe ways.”
RVAHCS has three Chaplains in service, two in Roseburg and one at the Eugene clinic. They are available and on-call to serve the needs of Veterans and employees – during RVAHCS’s COVID-19 response, self-care and spiritual strength are bolstered by the services Chaplain’s provide, according to U.S. Army Veteran, Chaplain Patrice Robichaux.
“Self-care is important because, who knows yourself better than you? If you are tired and anxiety driven, this will affect your job, wellness, and relationships in a certain way,” said Robichaux. “Chaplains roles are unique in that we are the eyes and ears of the VA. We intentionally look for those who seem weary.”
While RVAHCS’s Chaplains stand-by to serve the spiritual needs of Veterans, families and employees, they encourage a team approach to foster a community mentality toward whole-health, said Robichaux.
“Friends, family, peers, and supervisors play a significant role to address added stressors,” said Robichaux. “These folks remind us that we are not alone in this pandemic. We are surrounded by people going through the same thing. There is a saying, ‘Shared pain is very powerful.’ I believe this to be true and have seen this at work. Knowing you are not alone in your stress, fear, and concern relieve some of the stressors by recognizing others are sharing the same feelings. Americans are resilient. We will prevail through this pandemic and come out on the other side together.”
All of the RVAHCS Chaplains want to remind Veterans, families and employees that they are respectful of each person’s spirituality and seek to provide support. They will not proselytize or evangelize in any way. They are excellent listeners and encourages.