Memorial Hospital Chaplain Called To Active Duty

Victor Chatham is all too familiar with life's ups and downs. When the hospital chaplain goes to work, he sees joy and sadness virtually all the time. He believes that training will prepare him for his next assignment. Chatham's National Guard unit could be sent to Iraq.

Chatham considers himself a healing voice in a hallway where sickness is beyond almost every door.

"There is somebody upstairs now that before the day is over with, that has no hair because of chemo, and I'm going to get them a red cap," he said with a smile. "And that will be fun."

The Memorial Hospital chaplain is also the chaplain for the 114th Area Support Group out of Hattiesburg. And that unit will be on active duty starting December 2. So there's a chance the next prayers Chaplain Chatham hears could be from the Iraqi war zone.

He envisions his role as someone who "will be a voice that provides for some people. I will be a voice that performs for some people."

Chaplain Chatham was part of Vietnam. When he left for that conflict, he didn't have three daughters back home, praying for his safe return. This time he will.

"The thing that bothers me most right now is thinking about saying goodbye to my children," he said. "Going off and leaving them and not being able to be a parent on a day-to-day basis is a real difficult thing to think about."

So in these final days before he joins his unit, Chatham checks his computer a lot, to make sure he's doing enough for his hospital patients. How he calms them will probably be how he ensures soldiers that everything will be okay.

"People turn to their faith in times that they're in crisis, that they're facing a lot of anxiety," the hospital chaplain said. "So it's very similar in those ways."

Chaplain Chatham's unit has about 130 members. It must be in Fort Stewart, Georgia on December 10.

The orders for the 114th say the unit has been mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its main responsibility will be to coordinate the movement of food, water, ammunition and other supplies to troops that need them.