“I threw my body over the wounded to shield them from incoming mortar rounds.” -Volunteer Chaplain with a unit at Donetsk International Airport.
The unit nicknamed, “The Cyborgs” held out for months before being overrun in January. We are aware that eight volunteer chaplains have been killed alongside the troops in eastern Ukraine.
If you watched the news, have been on the Internet, Facebook, etc., you have doubtless seen many images of dead and wounded Ukrainian soldiers. As the war in Ukraine continues, a new mission has become apparent for Olive Branch…outgunned Ukrainian soldiers are suffering Combat Stress/Battle Fatigue. This is true now not only for soldiers but also the volunteer chaplains who have been serving the troops on the front lines..
Many Ukrainian units are like our National Guard in that they are from a locality like a city or small town. From the beginning of the conflict, pastors from those areas have brought donations of food, water, medicines and clothing from their hometowns. At beginning of the conflict, they were even purchasing and delivering body armor for the soldiers, the military was so poorly equipped. When the volunteer pastors come to the front with supplies, commanders have been letting them minister to the troops, sharing the Gospel, distributing Bibles, listening to their stories, and praying for them. Volunteer Chaplains have often been enlisted as assistant medics and are now suffering similar stresses as soldiers. If not Combat Stress, the chaplains are suffering Compassion Fatigue. We helped first responders who were dealing with thousands of dead in Haiti after the earthquake with the same issues.
One volunteer chaplain interviewed in January in Kiev shared how he had been to the front with troops over 60 times, often accompanied by his courageous wife. On more than one occasion he gathered body parts of a dead soldier, and escorted the body back home. The notification military officer asked the pastor to accompany him “because I have no idea what to say. As Pastor S. told the wife of her husband’s death, she literally assaulted him. Pastor S. said that he was suffering from nightmares and would completely isolate himself to attempt to work through it. Fortunately for him, he had a counseling resource who could help he and his wife through.
To address these issues, May 18-29th an OBI team headed to Ukraine to provide further instruction to the Olive Branch Ukraine (OBU) hospital chaplains in Cherkasy (central Ukraine) on how to help soldiers suffering from Combat Stress (Front lines reactions) and Post-Traumatic Stress. An awareness seminar was held for city and province leaders in the Cherkasy region to help them stay prepared to tend to returning soldiers and their families.
In Kiev, two training seminars sponsored by the All-Ukrainian Military Christian Brotherhood were held, one at a military hospital and one at a police hospital, for Catholic and Orthodox priests, hospital personnel and others. An additional training seminar was held for women in OBU’s military wives/women ministry (Club Ruth) who are serving military families and war wounded in the military hospitals.