This post comes to us from CBF-endorsed Army chaplain Capt. Larry M. Van Hook, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. The following are his reflections on the day of the Fort Hood shooting.
I was sitting in my office when I heard the cacophony.
“There has been a shooting at the SRP,” Staff Sgt. Asaah told me when I peeked out. She said the post has been locked down and that I should call headquarters company to report in. I couldn’t leave the building and no one outside could come in. All the schools were locked down. I am the Special Troops Battalion chaplain attached directly to the III Corps, so I was at “command central” making it easier to provide and check on accountability of all my soldiers. Of course the higher ups were getting a lot of intel, but I am just a captain so I watched FOX News with the enlisted to find out more. It is funny how wrong the news is when you know more than they do! However, I was worried.
Accountability didn’t reach 100 percent for a couple of hours. Three of my soldiers were wounded but not killed. Numerous others were traumatized after seeing the mayhem. Over the next couple of hours I heard horrific stories of blood and gore mingled with acts of heroism and bravery. I was intimately familiar with the location of this terrorist act; in fact I was due back there myself. Had my physical health assessment not been delayed, I very well could have been there. We are preparing for deployment and many in my unit had not finished. For the next 48 hours I counseled soldiers and civilians, participated in trauma debriefings with mental health, and visited all the wounded at Darnell Medical Center and Metroplex Hospital. We visited our soldiers at their homes and prayed with them. As the Memorial Ceremony approached, I helped the Corps staff with whatever I could. They were weary and some of them had seen things unimaginable. I attended the “Ramp Ceremony” of our fallen brethren. The ramp ceremony is the solemn occasion when the bodies are loaded on to the C130 for Dover. I remember seeing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson there among other important people. The ceremony usually takes less than 10 minutes but for 13 people it lasted over an hour. I was reminded of why I believe I am called to be a chaplain and what I am doing at Fort Hood — being the presence of Christ. Jesus came “that they might have life and life more abundant.”
It was over a year ago in Iraq that I stood over the body of a soldier killed by a deeply buried improvised explosive device (IED) and put my arm around a distraught comrade. I remember how, with tears streaming down their faces, the soldiers stood at attention as the body of their friend was loaded onto the truck. I never could imagine that the enemy would attack us at home; now I’m not so naïve. I didn’t get to see the Memorial Ceremony and the president in person. I was assigned to the Spiritual Fitness Center to be ready for anyone who might need my help, but we rigged a flat screen TV to the Internet and watched the ceremony. Except for the VIPs and extra speeches, it was just like ceremonies I’ve participated in myself. Such ceremonies are for soldiers–to help them find closure and get back into the battle–but this one was for our whole community. Chaplain Lembke was very encouraging, I thought. I was proud of the senior chaplains and hope I can be as capable and wise as they!
The Army has a mission to enact justice upon terrorists; however, I have another mission–to bring Christ’s peace and grace. I remember vividly how the Lord directed me to Luke 15, the passage where Jesus tells his followers the parables of lost things. Christ’s mission is now the church’s mission, my mission: to seek and to save that which was lost. We should seek justice but that is not our primary mission. Our mission is to leave the 99 and find that one lost sheep. Our mission is to find that one lost precious soul. Jesus is the lifeline in our search and rescue mission. May I never forget that.
Thank you for your prayers!