Chaplain prays for all

Maj. Bolin provides for Army’s spiritual needs


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U.S. Army Maj. Kenneth Bolin, brigade chaplain for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, from Manlius, Ill., speaks about the concept of prayer as part of the National Day of Prayer at the base chapel on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan May 4.

U.s. army photo/Spc. eric-james estrada

The Army has taught chaplain Ken Bolin a lot about religion — and not just his own.

Bolin, who is a Christian, said his unit is actually tasked with meeting the spiritual needs of all soldiers, regardless of their personal beliefs.

“It’s really only in the Chaplain Corps that we can come together united,” said Bolin, who is Brigade Chaplain for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division currently deployed in Eastern Afghanistan.

That means holding religious ceremonies, ministering to soldiers on the battlefield and counseling those who have been traumatized by war. But it also means providing whatevr soldiers might require to meet their own needs.

“I had a Wiccan soldier approach me and ask for candles,” Bolin recalled during a phone interview from Afghanistan on May 2.

Whether soldiers are Wiccan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or even atheist, Bolin said he and the rest of the 10 chaplains and chaplain assistants in the unit do their best to accommodate everyone.

“Not everybody has the same faith tradition,” Bolin said.

Although all the chaplains in his unit happen to be Christian, Bolin said he is often tasked with helping Jewish soldiers locate rabbis or Muslim soldiers find Imams.

“We are here to provide for all,” he said.

Though he’s a major, Bolin said chaplains typically aren’t referred to by their rank. That’s because the Army chaplains want everyone — from privates to generals — to feel they can talk to chaplains as equals.

“We are completely confidential,” he said.

The Chaplain Corps recently went into the battlefield to provide services in commemoration of the National Day of Prayer event on May 3-4. Bolin said he and the rest of the chaplains prayed with soldiers, took prayer requests and asked for protection for those serving in harm’s way. Bolin said it’s especially important for the chaplains to visit with soldiers working in some of the most hostile environments in the world.

“We wouldn’t be requesting helicopter support if it wasn’t,” he said.

Bolin said the Day of Prayer event was a way to spread the word that prayer can be a powerful and calming force on the battlefield.

“It’s bringing to light for everyone else the power of prayer and the power prayer can have,” he said.

Bolin said he feels like the work he does as a chaplain is important because it gives soldiers a place to turn with their stress. Just having someone to listen, he said, can make a huge difference in war.

“I have found it is very comforting to them,” he said.

Though he’s originally from Illinois, Bolin said he’s looking forward to returning to Alaska when his deployment is up. Though his wife and three kids now live on JBER, when Bolin leaves the Army he said he plans to remain in Alaska.

“We’ve already bought some land,” he said. “We love getting outside.”

Between now and then, Bolin said he plans to spend the rest of his time in Afghanistan doing what he’s been doing — praying for everyone, regardless of who they are.

“It’s very important for us to thank God and to continue to ask for His protection for our people and the Afghan people,” he said.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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