Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)





Committee Chair

Andrew Wiest

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Kyle Zelner

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Heather Stur

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Brian LaPierre

Committee Member 4 Department


Committee Member 5

Gunter Bischof

Committee Member 5 Department



Throughout the period of the Vietnam War, soldiers and Marines of the United States Military were accompanied into the combat zones by members of the clergy who were also part of the military. These chaplains attempted to bring God to the men in the field by providing spiritual and moral support through worship services and certain counseling duties. A number of chaplains, however, believed so strongly in their ministry that they refused to simply stay “on base” and instead shouldered their packs and journeyed with their troops into the most perilous combat zones. In so doing , these combat chaplains took upon themselves a “double burden” in that they not only bore upon themselves the spiritual and moral well-being of their troops but also suffered the same hardships, privations, and consequences of seeing and experiencing the worst that combat had to offer.

As a result, combat chaplains underwent a transformation in the field that changed them from mere sacramental ministers in military uniform to “wounded healers” who advocated for their troops—both during and after the war. In experiencing the horrors of combat, suffering the loss of friends, struggling with the sagging morale of their men as well as their own, and dealing with the moral conflicts posed by the fog of war, combat chaplains became committed to the idea of peace and justice after the war, took a leading role in recognizing and treating post-traumatic stress in themselves, and—as a result—were able to reach out to their fellow veterans and offer them the opportunity to affect their own healing.