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"Never Leave A Place The Way You Found It.”

Priscilla Mondt shares her story as a Chaplain, helping wounded warriors find spiritual care.

Priscilla MondtPriscilla Mondt is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts as a woman veteran.

An old adage says, “God loves us too much to leave us the way we are.” I was taught early in my military career to “never walk by a mistake” and “never leave a place the way you found it.” Change does not happen in a vacuum; it usually requires the support of others both to empower and carry through the vision. One may have many ideas but these fall flat without others to embrace and execute them. In my work at the Veterans Healthcare System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas, there is a strong commitment to meeting the needs of the 55,000 Veterans and families served across three states. The paradigm shift for spiritual care, one-third of the holistic healthcare concept, was empowered by the leadership and implemented by a strong Chaplain Service team.

The term “spiritual care” has a broader definition than religion; it is “whatever gives a person meaning and purpose in life.” The need for spiritual interventions is especially realized during times of crisis and war. Chaplains attend to the wounds of the soul, those not visible to the human eye. I lead a team of strong spiritual leaders unusually gifted in abilities to assess and address needs of our country’s warriors. Physical and emotional needs are intertwined with spirituality and this group shifted the culture to a proactive stance to address needs of all Veteran populations served by our facility. Like shining light into darkness, when one area was addressed, it became obvious that another area needed attention. The expansion of spiritual care was patient-focused and guided by assessments and requests for services that include the many VA programs targeting both inpatients and outpatients.

Technology has changed the way people interact. While some view technology as personal and enhancing accessibility, it also sometimes distances people. Personal touch and interaction are often missing. Chaplains bring the personal dimension to Veterans, listening to their heartache, doubts, and fears, and replacing these with hope and assurance. However, by leveraging technology, the chapel worship services became digitized, allowing non-ambulatory inpatients to participate via close circuit television. This facility Chaplain Service became the first to field secure messaging, allowing electronic confidentiality between patient and chaplain. Tele-health capabilities and other such technological venues closed the gap on spiritual care services to Veterans outside the walls of the hospital.

Having served in the military during the transition from the Women’s Army Corps to integration into the Regular Army, I am committed to investment in the next generation of female leaders. This is reflected in two scholarships dedicated to inspiring women toward leadership and service. The Hazel Marsh Mondt Scholarship, named for my mother who was a World War II Veteran, is awarded annually to an Assemblies of God Theological Seminary female seminarian in pursuit of either military or Veterans Affairs Chaplaincy. The Priscilla Mondt Leadership Scholarship is awarded annually at Native American Bible College to a female or Veteran college student who demonstrates leadership. I am currently President of the Northwest Arkansas Chaplain Alliance (includes hospital, hospice, corporate, industrial, fire and police chaplains), working to promote change across many communities.

Drill sergeants intrigue me. They possess remarkable capabilities to quickly assess a raw recruit, motivate them appropriately and produce soldiers who will fight and defend our nation. Chaplains see similar transformations in the lives of Veterans as they invest in holistic care of our nation’s warriors. Wherever you are placed, your investment in the lives of others builds a stronger nation.

Chaplain Priscilla Mondt serves as Chief of Chaplain Service at Veterans Affairs Medical Center.