A “Chapter” is a Chapter

As a Squadron Chaplain I counsel lots of Cavalrymen and women. Probably the most difficult counseling situations are providing care for Soldiers who are being chaptered out of the Army for any of a variety of reasons. Could be an APFT failure. Could be height/weight issues. Might be medical issues or UCMJ issues. Whatever the reason, there is often a lot of pain and a wide range of emotions involved when a person is told they must get out of the Army before they really want to. It’s just not a pleasant situation.

The term “chapter” is interesting to me. When I think of how that word is mostly used in civilian life it has to do with portions of a book or a DVD. Smaller pieces that make up the full story. Some chapters are filled with pain and difficulties, while others are brimming with success and triumph. And some chapters are just strange. But as a whole, a wide variety of chapters can make an award-winning novel or movie. Life itself is filled with chapters. There’s childhood, then the teenage years, followed by the young adult years. Somewhere down the road we reach “the prime of our life” – and I still haven’t quite figured out what that is. Middle-age is yet another chapter in our lives, followed by our retiree or senior citizen years. Then we get just plain old. Birth and death are chapters. Single and married and even divorced are chapters. Together, all those chapters create the tapestries that are our lives. And the wide variety of life experiences represented in all of us make for quite an interesting population!

So let’s look at that Army chapter again. Yes, it means a Soldier is involuntarily separating from the Army. As a Chaplain, I do not advise the Soldier facing the change to deny their feelings. Allow them to come. But then I try to encourage the Soldier to live with the reality that change is coming, and help them to try to prepare for that change. The page in their life as a member of the US Army is about to turn. But what new chapter will they find? What new experiences await? New challenges and new successes? Yes, there will be future successes! The end of their Army career doesn’t have to mark the end of their life. Sometimes it is painfully obvious that right now in a person’s life, he or she is not a good fit for the role of Soldier. It doesn’t mean they won’t be successful somewhere else.

I advise a Soldier who knows they will be exiting the Army to shift their primary focus to making transition plans and to prepare for that next chapter of their lives so that they have the best possible chance at landing on their feet. There is a Bible passage I have turned to time and again throughout my life, when I have had to leave big jobs for smaller ones, and have seen what I thought was my future come crashing down around me. It’s found in Jeremiah 29:11-13 and it is a message from the Lord for us, through the prophet. It says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”

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