STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 08/21/2007


ARTICLE | The Adventures of Padre André, an Army Chaplain

Story Andrew Shriver '95
Photos courtesy of Andrew Shriver '95

See the longer version of Andrew's story as we originally received it.

I have just arrived in Kuwait with the 864th Combat Engineer Heavy Battalion. Today, February 21, I co-officiated for an Ash Wednesday service with a Lutheran chaplain in the chapel at Camp Virginia amidst the sands of the Kuwaiti desert. As I traced an ashen cross on the foreheads of 30 soldiers ranging from colonels to privates, I was reminded of how Christ died for everyone, those with rank and those without it.

In a few days we will be deployed to Afghanistan to help the Afghans in rebuilding their roads, among other tasks. As I prepare to provide spiritual support for these soldiers, I've been thinking over this past year. In January 2006 I was sworn into the U.S. Army as a reserve chaplain at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., by a lieutenant colonel who had lost his leg in Iraq.

Later that month I was assigned to the 2290th U.S. Army Hospital at Walter Reed. It was during that assignment the nurses began to call me "Padre André." In March I began to serve full-time as a mobilized reservist at Arlington National Cemetery in nearby Arlington, Virginia. I soon found myself officiating over six funerals a day, five days a week. Some of the deceased had served in World War II and the Korean War while others were far younger and had died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

One funeral was for a young captain who had been killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) in Iraq. His wife and 10-month-old boy sat next to his parents, and behind them stood several hundred others who wanted to show their respect for his sacrifice, including a U.S. congressman and a number of Army generals and other officers. 

In my sermon I spoke of John Newton, the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace." Before Newton died he told a friend, "My memory is almost gone, but there are two things I still remember- first, that I am a great sinner, and second, that Jesus Christ is a great Savior."

When I greeted the young soldier's widow afterward, she hugged me, saying, "That was exactly what he would have wanted to be said." It was moving to realize that this young man, even in his passing, was able to share Christ's love with hundreds of people.

In September, having completed basic chaplaincy training, I returned to Washington, D.C., to serve as chaplain for the Military District of Washington Air Operations Group based at Fort McNair. While there I supported the Air Operations Headquarters, working with a helicopter battalion and an Army Lear jet battalion. My helicopter battalion transported generals and/or admirals who were accompanying caskets from D.C. to Dover Air Force Base. It was my job to support them in the difficult task of transporting fallen soldiers.

In January I joined the 864th, based in Fort Lewis, Washington, and we were sent to Kuwait in mid-February. As we wait to be sent to Afghanistan, I look forward to being a spiritual support to these soldiers. Whether chaplains are leading worship, counseling or on patrol, we are at the front line of soldiers' lives, and we have to work well under pressure. I will be the only one in my unit without a weapon, but I know God will provide everything I need, even security.


CH (CPT) Andrew Shriver holds master's degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Wheaton College. He has worked with the U.S. Department of Health and with several Christian college campus ministries. He enjoys hearing from friends and may be contacted at .

Photos
1. CH (CPT) Andrew Shriver at Fort Lewis, Washington
2. CH Shriver at historic Kher Khot Castle in Afghanistan
3. CH Shriver at a Ground Assault Convoy brief
4. Ch Shriver leading a field service in a chow hall at a remote FOB (Forward Operating Base)

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Andrew Shriver at Fort Washington
Andrew Shriver at Kher Khot Castle
Andrew Shriver
Field service