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Looking for Connection, Community? Join DHA’s Soul Care Series

Image of A woman faces her computer screen. The Defense Health Agency Office of Religious Affairs launched the Soul Care program as a biweekly series of virtual meetings for employees to gather as a community of support. (Photo: DHA Strategic Communications)

The COVID pandemic and other events around the world have resulted in long-term stress for individuals at the Defense Department and worldwide.

To support its staff, the Defense Health Agency launched a program aimed at building a sense of community and promoting spiritual health.

The DHA Office of Religious Affairs designed the biweekly program to foster connection and address isolation and other topics affecting employees’ spiritual and overall well-being.

“Soul Care is as an opportunity for us to gather as a community of support for one another, said Army Chaplain (Maj.) Daniel Garnett, the DHA’s staff chaplain and leader of the series.

“We desire to give people the opportunity to regain their spiritual centeredness, which is vital to our holistic well-being as we connect with others in meaningful community.”

Soul Care also fits into the Department of Defense’s Total Force Fitness framework, which includes spirituality as a key component.

The series is part of DHA’s commitment to a fulfilled staff and offers the DHA community, including military personnel, civilians, and contactors, “the opportunity to connect with one another in a spiritual community,” said Garnett.

“The past couple of years have taken their toll on us as we have dealt with the pandemic and other issues along the way, and many people have simply lost that sense of community working remotely,” said Garnett. “Soul Care gives them an opportunity to connect with others while at the same time strengthening the spiritual fiber of their souls.”

Topics Discussed

The series focuses on diverse topics, including burnout, stress, and hopelessness, which often affect people’s overall health. A recent session discussed positive ways to address anger, depression, fear, loneliness, and disappointment.

Garnett is also partnering with DHA’s Psychological Health Center of Excellence to incorporate meditation practices and other holistic resources for future sessions to enhance employee well-being.

“This series has given people the opportunity to really open up with many of the issues they have faced and currently face, and seek support from others within the group,” said Garnett.

Participant Testimonies

“I was feeling disconnected from my work network and needed spiritual food for my soul related to the important work we do,” said Cheryl Kraft, a nurse consultant and capability and requirements manager at DHA’s J5 directorate.

The series has helped Kraft find connection, peace, and resilience.

“It provides me the grace to deal with daily changes better,” she said.

It has also benefitted her well-being.

“I am happier, I smile more, [and feel a] weight off my shoulder,” she said. “I feel connected to like-minded peers.”

For others, the series helps provide a refreshing break from daily responsibilities and an opportunity to connect with others.

“Receiving feedback that I have been helpful to others is encouraging,” said Brian Trump, deputy team lead for DHA’s Pharmacy Operations division. “It can be difficult for one to feel a sense of belonging or trust,” especially after two years of pandemic isolation.

As a result, Trump has been “pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of everyone within the group and the willingness of participants to be real, open, and honest.”

The Soul Care series takes place virtually the first and third Wednesday of the month at noon on MS Teams.

“Anyone is welcome to join no matter their faith background,” emphasized Garnett. “We recognize that we all struggle with many of the same issues that life throws our way and can use the help and support of those around us.”

For more information about joining the series, contact the DHA Office of Religious Affairs at 703-681-4665.

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Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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