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The Military, Chaplaincy, and the Necessity of Hope

Colonel Martindale has a pretty impressive resumé. She served as a chaplain on the battlefield in Iraq, to Rwanda genocide survivors, and at Ground Zero after 9-11. She is currently the Strategic Engagement Officer for the Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon and the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the Army in Military Sexual Trauma. And if all that weren’t enough, she is also a CPE supervisor at Travis Air Force Base and a part-time Presbyterian pastor in Napa, California.

But when you meet Colonel (Joanne) Martindale in person, it’s not her rank or her extensive experience as a chaplain that makes the biggest impression. She is almost always occupied with learning about the people around her. I’ve stood in line with her for meals at conferences as she struck up conversations with the people in front of and behind her in line. And Joanne isn’t idly curious about people, she really wants to understand precisely whom she is meeting, not simply what they do or where they’re from. Which means of course, if you go anywhere with Joanne, you should probably be prepared to wait for her to finish her conversations with complete strangers.

Interpersonal curiosity–in my experience–is a reliable metric of a good chaplain and Colonel Joanne Martindale has been gifted with an unusually big portion of it. But if you listen to Joanne talk about her experiences in Iraq or her work with Rwanda refugees, her curiosity about others begins to appear more as a discipline sourced in the necessity of hope than a pleasant feature of an extrovert’s temperament. And this is what is compelling, at least to me, about Joanne Martindale's, or rather Colonel Martindale’s experience as a chaplain. By all accounts, she should be grim, because she has encountered grim. But she decidedly is not.

Colonel Martindale is the first speaker in our series Exploring Chaplaincy. I am excited she is able to join us and I want to encourage you to come, listen, and learn from her experience as a chaplain ministering to those on the battlefield, to victims of war, and to those who have never known war.

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