Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Military chaplains emphasize spiritual health during COVID-19 pandemic

Soldier in front of military sculpture In a time when many are dealing with anxiety and fear over a new disease with no cure available, comfort can come in the form of spiritual wellness. Spiritual caregivers like Navy Lt. Nahum Melendez (pictured), a chaplain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, help patients and their families nurture that spiritual wellness. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 (SW/AW) Kurtis A. Hatcher, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Psychological Fitness | Total Force Fitness

In a time when many are dealing with anxiety and fear over a new disease with no cure available, comfort can come in the form of spiritual wellness. Spiritual health is a domain of Total Force Fitness that focuses on beliefs and practices. The goal is to build connectedness through hope, meaning, and purpose. Spiritual caregivers like the chaplains of the military help people nurture that connectedness. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic when physical proximity is limited, chaplains are getting creative with how they offer spiritual support.

“There’s so much from our spiritual traditions that assume an in-person connection,” said Pastor (Cmdr.) David Jeltema, a Navy chaplain at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “To suddenly be in an environment where the way we operate has changed so radically and realize that the way to care for patients is actually to maintain a distance is a real shift in how we deliver care.”

New rules at WRNMMC and other hospitals in the Military Health System severely limit who can come in contact with patients, whether the patient has COVID-19 or not. Chaplains and family members of patients communicate from doorways and through phone calls instead of offering comfort from inside a hospital room. According to Jeltema, patients, family members, and even hospital staff are feeling the effects of the lack in closeness.

“This is a very isolating disease that we are dealing with,” Jeltema said. “When people are not able to experience things like acts of hospitality, I think they find that there’s a void in their lives.”

WRNMMC’s chaplains have found new ways to fill that void and offer spiritual support without direct proximity. Chaplains are taking a more proactive approach to contacting family members of patients and meeting their spiritual needs. WRNMMC’s chaplains also have an official Walter Reed Pastoral Care Facebook page as an initiative that has opened connection between community members, staff, and outpatients. The page extends the voluntary broadcasting of daily and weekly services to hospital in-patients. Virtual communication for both patients and family members has helped the chaplains reach more people for spiritual care and stay efficient.

“As spiritual caregivers, we are tasked to find creative ways to nurture,” said Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Nahum Melendez, who also works at WRNMMC. “We are hopeful that in the absence of physical touch there can be a different, transcendental touching of the spirit instead.”

These creative ways to nurture spiritual health extend beyond organized vocations and religions. Both Jeltema and Melendez emphasize that, at its core, spiritual health centers on what gives people meaning.

“I think that spiritual health is really about having a good sense of identity of who we are and what our purpose is in life,” Jeltema said, “and what is important is what we value.”

These values can be structured through religious practices. But, spirituality can also take the form of time spent with family and friends. Activities like yoga and meditation are rising in popularity in hospitals. Chaplains like Melendez use hand held labyrinth exercises as an innovative practice during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Melendez guides patients to walk these symbolic paths, meandering yet purposeful, and use them as tools to develop the spiritual life while isolated from community support.

Jeltema is hopeful that people battling fear during the pandemic will explore their spiritual health to ease that fear. Whether through religion or purposeful practice, Jeltema finds that connecting to the world is important for overall health. Nearly every hospital throughout the MHS has one or more chaplains to provide spiritual support to patients and their families. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the world, beneficiaries and families are encouraged to reach out to these spiritual caregivers to find a path that works for them.

“It's a real test of our spiritual health, when we look at what we do with fear,” Jeltema said. “This is a really good time to look outside of oneself to see how that fear can be overcome. There's a lot of wisdom from a lot of different spiritual traditions that I think one can find in a time like this.”

Melendez agrees, highlighting that community is a great place to find spirituality. While gathering in-person is not on the table, checking in is a way for people to make sure that their loved ones stay spiritually healthy.

“We can all help one another to reach that consequential state of mind and soul,” Melendez said, “by simply asking what it is that gives you meaning and purpose in life, and encouraging each other to do just that.”

You also may be interested in...

COVID-19 Booster Shots

Infographic
8/27/2021
If you have an immune system that is moderately to severely compromised, the CDC recommends you may receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This would be at least 4 weeks after your second dose.

If you have an immune system that is moderately to severely compromised, the CDC recommends you may receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This would be at least 4 weeks after your second dose.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Vaccine Eligibility | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Need to Talk? We're Here For You

Infographic
8/17/2021
Graphic that outlines MHS's mental health resources

The Military Health System offers many mental health resources. Remember, you are not alone.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Mental Health Toolkit | Talking About Afghanistan

Mask Guidance for Department of Defense Facilities

Infographic
7/30/2021
In accordance with CDC guidance, the Department of Defense (DOD) requires all Service members, Federal employees, onsite contractor employees, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in all indoor DOD facilities.   If you are not vaccinated, continue to physically distance consistent with applicable CDC and DOD Force Health Protection Guidance.

In accordance with CDC guidance, the Department of Defense (DOD) requires all Service members, Federal employees, onsite contractor employees, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in all indoor DOD facilities. If you are not vaccinated, continue to physically distance consistent with applicable CDC and DOD Force Health Protection Guidance.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Total Force Fitness Physical

Infographic
7/21/2021
Total Force Fitness - Total Body Preventive Health and Physical Fitness - Ability to physically accomplish all tasks while remaining mission capable and avoiding injury

Total Force Fitness - Total Body Preventive Health and Physical Fitness - Ability to physically accomplish all tasks while remaining mission capable and avoiding injury

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health and Total Force Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

The Delta Variant: Are You Protected?

Infographic
6/28/2021
Graphic with the title, “Are you Protected?” and the TRICARE logo on the bottom right. States that the Delta variant of the virus is spreading and that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective. Links to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective against the Delta Variant. If you've received your first dose, don't forget to get your second dose.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Delta Variant

Infographic
6/28/2021
Graphic stating that the Delta variant is a reason to get vaccinated. The TRICARE logo is on the bottom right. Links to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine

The Delta variant of the virus is a reason to get vaccinated. The variant is expanding, especially where vaccination rates are low.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

The Delta Variant: Stop the Spread

Infographic
6/28/2021
Graphic describing the Delta variant. Includes three bullet points describing the variant and a link to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine and includes the TRICARE logo on the bottom right.

The Delta variant is expanding, especially where vaccination rates are low. Visit www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine to learn more.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

The Delta Variant: Fact Check

Infographic
6/28/2021
A Fact Check graphic. Features a quote in the center of the graphic and states that the Delta variant is a reason to get vaccinated. The TRICARE logo is on the bottom right. Links to www.tricare.mil/COVIDVaccine

The Delta variant of the virus is a reason to get vaccinated. This variant spreads easily, with increased rates of sickness and hospitalization.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

COVID-19 Vaccination Card Second Shot

Infographic
5/27/2021
Graphic saying that keeping track of your vaccination card is important. Includes a helpful tips section, a link to www.tricare.mil/covidvaccine, and what to do when you didn’t get your vaccination card or don’t have a copy. The TRICARE logo is on the bottom right of the page.

Keep track of your vaccination card. Tips include keeping your card on you and taking a picture of it as a backup copy.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Costs and Documentation | Coronavirus

TFF cogs Environmental 1200x675

Infographic
5/19/2021
Social media graphic for Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention Month and Environmental Fitness

“Vision and Hearing and Environmental Fitness Ability to perform tasks in any environment"

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

TFF cogs Physical 1200x675

Infographic
5/19/2021
Social media graphic for Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention Month and Physical Fitness

“Vision and Hearing and Physical Fitness. Ability to physically accomplish all tasks while remaining mission capable and avoiding injury.”

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Is It Allergies or COVID-19?

Infographic
5/11/2021
Infographic that describes the difference between symptoms of allergies and those related to COVID-19

This Infographic provides a chart that outlines how to tell the difference between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms

Recommended Content:

Symptoms of COVID-19 | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Total Force Fitness COGS Psychological

Infographic
4/26/2021
Total Force Fitness social media graphic showing the multi-colored Total Force Fitness logo, an orange Psychological Fitness shuttlecock.

Total Force Fitness Mental Health and Psychological Fitness Ability to integrate and improve cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capabilities to optimize performance and ensure mission readiness

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness

Total Force Fitness Circle Logo

Infographic
4/26/2021
Total Force Fitness logo showing the eight domains swirling in a circle

"Total Force Fitness”

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Mental Health and Total Force Fitness

Total Force Fitness COGS Environmental

Infographic
4/26/2021
Total Force Fitness social media graphic showing the multi-colored Total Force Fitness logo, a green Environmental Fitness shuttlecock.

“Total Force Fitness Mental Health and Environmental Fitness Ability to perform tasks in any environment”

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Mental Health and Total Force Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.