It’s news in this man’s Army when corporal tells chaplain to keep his chin up
by Corporal Grant Robbins1
“Look,” said the first sergeant. “Why don’t you just tell it to the chaplain?”
I had gone into the orderly room because my name was not on a new rating list. My sad story has such a long background of pyramided woes that I shall not go into it more than to say that only a good heart-to-heart talk with someone would straighten me out.
The following day I stood before the chaplain dressed neatly in patched fatigues to give the impression of a poor but honest home-spun GI.
“What have they done to you now?” asked the chaplain. “And kindly make it short.”
I sat down and let him have it straight. When the torrent had subsided, I sat back and searched the face of the chaplain for a reaction. He gazed at his feet and shook his head slowly.
“I just can’t understand the Army,” he said. “Now take me for example. You may think that I am doing pretty well, but I’ll tell you appearances are deceiving. After five country churches with an average salary of ten dollars a week, I finally get settled in a good town with a good congregation. And then, of course, I leave it to become a chaplain. Where do they put me? Out on a sand-blown camp in the desert, with a tent to preach in and a bunch of tank men who have no more inclination toward religion than Hottentots. Then the wind blows the tent away.”
I said that that was too bad.
“That was only the beginning,” he continued. “Shortly after I experienced a slight success in bringing some boys into the fold, they put another chaplain over me.”
He went on and on from one misfortune to another, and as his story developed one could easily see that he and Fate were at odds. Tears trickled down his cheeks and splashed off the bars on his collar.
Since passes were issued now only on Sundays his congregation had suffered a heart-breaking drop in attendance. And he had been ousted from his warm office to make room for the Red Cross. When he protested, he was mistaken for a mess officer and installed in a cubbyhole just off the mess kitchen, where from 0600 to 2100 came a heavy odor of frying Spam.
“And to top it all,” he said, “I have not received a promotion in eighteen months.”
I couldn’t stand it any longer. I reached across, patted him on the shoulder and said: “Keep your chin up, sir. I’m sure things will work out in the long run.”
He smiled miserably and thanked me. I tiptoed quietly out the door, leaving him in his grief.
1 “Tell it to the Chaplain,” CORONET magazine, September 1945, pg. 68. (Excerpted from the book The Best from Yank, the Army Weekly, published at $3.50 by E. P. Dulton & Co., Inc., New York, N. Y.; copyright, 1945, by Franklin S. Forsberg.)