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Monday, May 2, 2016

Chaplain can relate to deployed troops, families

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Jim Staggers addresses members of the Greencastle Rotary
Transition into home life after serving months deployed overseas can cause stress that even an Army chaplain has a hard time handling.

Jim Staggers testified to that truth Wednesday when he shared his experiences with the Greencastle Rotary.

And he asked them to look out for family and friends who are returning from a deployment, even as hundreds of Indiana Guardsmen left the Hoosiers State for an upcoming tour in Iraq. Being "home" from war does not mean that they have left the war behind them, he explained.

He found even himself getting angry after being home for a couple months due to things like speed limits, children, just ordinary things that he did not have to deal with while deployed.

Staggers, now the minister at Sherwood Christian Church and the Chaplain for Asbury Towers, earned the Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

He has also spent time in Bosnia Herzegovina, and is now commander of the National Guard's 135th Chaplain Atta-chment, which is assigned to make notifications to families whose service member has died while deployed.

He sees not only the pain of families who have lost a loved one, but also the struggle that returning service people have in adjusting to life at home.

Paying bills, managing children, even making menu decisions, are all things service people don't have to do when their main mission is to stay alive while fighting "bad guys."

"I don't know how families are staying intact, but many of them aren't," Staggers said.

"There's a high divorce rate and suicide rate, and families are under a lot of stress. They have financial difficulties."

In today's National Guard, Staggers said, some soldiers are being deployed three or four times.

They spend such a long time away from the familiarities of civilian life, but within 300 hours of being released from active duty, they are out of uniform, with their families, and are expected to fit back into a routine.

"It's like sending home a loaded gun," Staggers said.

"They don't give them any time to stabilize back into society, so that's why you see child abuse, spouse abuse, drug and alcohol use."

The service people have 90 days to go back to their unit when they come back, but that's not always good, he said, because they are not around other service people who can relate to their challenges.

Sharing his Army experiences with groups such as Rotary is an opportunity Staggers said he always welcomes.

A slide show of the people and places he visited in Afghanistan accompanied his talk.

As a minister, he was considered a "wise" man by the locals, so he was able to interact with them differently than regular service people.

He was a liaison with Afghan religious leaders.

Staggers said his experience was also different because he doesn't work for the Army or the federal government, but for his denomination, so he cannot go beyond the tenets of his faith.

But he must also be willing to provide for people of all faiths.

While many in Afghanistan were glad to see U.S. troops arrive, he said, many now think the troops have stayed too long.

The U.S. didn't help its cause any by occupying the bases and facilities once used by the Soviet Union during its decade-long occupation of the country.

But for the most part, the Afghan people remain friendly. And he made friends during his deployment.

"When soldiers come back, we're never the same," he said.

"We leave a little bit of ourselves over there."

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He makes me proud everyday of my life!!!

-- Posted by Rod on Wed, Mar 19, 2008, at 8:09 AM

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