Chaplains Face Adversity Too - Unarmored Talk

Chaplains Face Adversity Too - Unarmored Talk

Mario P. Fields Mario P. Fields
22 minute read

In this podcast episode of "Chaplains Face Adversity Too!", the host interviews Chaplain Michael Washington of the Hargrave Military Academy. Chaplain Washington shares his journey from being a veteran of the Marine Corps and the Army to becoming the first African-American chaplain at the Academy. He discusses his battle with COVID-19 and small cell lymphoma, and how he managed to overcome these challenges and return to work.

Chaplain Washington talks about the importance of authenticity, vulnerability, and transparency in leadership and ministry. He shares his philosophy of earning the right to be heard in the lives of the 170 cadets he serves, through being intentional, intense, and intimate. He also emphasizes the power of changing one's thought process, particularly shifting from a "got to" to a "get to" mentality, which he believes can positively transform one's outlook on life.

The episode concludes with Chaplain Washington encouraging listeners to support the Hargrave Military Academy and to adopt his philosophy in their own lives - to view problems as opportunities for growth rather than burdens to bear.

Chaplain Michael Washington

Our guest, Chaplain Michael Washington, is more than just a chaplain; he is a resilient individual with a unique journey. After eight years of service in the Marine Corps, Chaplain Washington took a 15-year hiatus before re-enlisting in the Army, only to face a medical retirement in 2016. Undeterred, he pursued education and found his calling as the chaplain at the Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia.

Chaplain Washington's life took an unexpected turn when he battled COVID-19 in November 2020, followed by the discovery of small cell lymphoma in his right lung. His strength and determination led him through six months of chemotherapy, successfully defeating cancer. Returning to work, he embraced a new opportunity, now serving over 170 cadets and 50 faculty and staff members.

His story is a testament to resilience, strength, and unwavering dedication to service, inspiring all who encounter it.

🔑 Key Takeaways:

  1. Authenticity and Openness: Chaplain Washington emphasizes the importance of authenticity and openness, especially for leaders. Sharing personal experiences and struggles creates connection and understanding, fostering a sense of community.

  2. Mindset Transformation: The power of shifting from a "got to" to a "get to" mentality is explored. This mindset reframing transforms obligations into privileges, making daily tasks feel less burdensome.

  3. Supportive Networks: Chaplain Washington highlights the value of a supportive network during challenging times. Having a group of people to lean on provides guidance, support, and a safe space for vulnerability.

  4. Addressing Adversities: Acknowledging that everyone, even caregivers or leaders, goes through adversities is crucial. Chaplain Washington encourages addressing these issues rather than suppressing them.

  1. "Growing Through" Trials: The concept of "growing through" trials rather than just "going through" them is discussed. This suggests the potential for personal growth and learning even in the face of adversity.

💡 Discussion Points:

  • Chaplain Washington's journey from being a veteran to becoming a chaplain.
  • His battle with COVID-19 and small cell lymphoma, showcasing resilience.
  • The significance of authenticity, vulnerability, and transparency in leadership and ministry.
  • His philosophy of earning the right to be heard in the lives of the cadets.
  • The transformative power of changing one's thought process from a "got to" to a "get to" mentality.
  • Dealing with personal issues and the importance of sharing them with trusted individuals.

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Transcripts by Buzzsprout


Welcome back to unarmored talk podcast. Thank you so much for listening and watching each episode and continue pleased to share with your friends and family members and colleagues. And don't forget to leave a rating or review if you feel this is a awesome show.


And you can connect to all of my social media on the parade deck just looking at show notes or you can put in the search engine Mario P. Fields parade deck and get all access to my social media. Well, let's get ready to interview another guest who is willing to remove their armor to help other people.


Everybody it is 2024 and what you guys don't know is we actually just did a whole session and did not record it. So unarmored talk podcast first episode to kick off the year and I have an amazing guest who came on the show to remove his armor to help other people gain a better understanding that we are all emotional beings man.


But to think is a choice. Welcome to unarmored talk podcast first episode of 2024. We have chaplain Michael Washington Hardware Military Academy and he's also a veteran and a couple of branches of service microphone over to you.


Thank you. Glad to be here so I appreciate it so very much. It is a pleasure. Welcome to 2024. I'm very glad to be here. Thank you for the invitation. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. I'm honored man to host you before we get into our amazing guest today.


A couple of things real fast. Last year. Thank you unarmored talk fans and that's audio video. Everyone we raised we generated almost 800 over $800 just shy of $1000 that we donated to still serving incorporated and if you get on a website we actually paid for their skill based event that was held December 4th of 2023 at Hilton Greenville.


So there's a nice video on the landing page. You guys are helping us break that poverty cycle through positive skill development. Keep sharing the episodes, keep watching, and please help me to continue to make a difference while I'm living on this earth.


And you can join me in that effort to do so. We're done with the admin. Please, chaplain, can you tell the listeners and viewers just a little bit about yourself? Good thing. As somebody said, I am a veteran, served eight years in the Marine Corps.


I literally got out of the Marine Corps, was out for 15 years, and then went back into the military, went to the Army, stayed in the Army for four years, and I retired, I was medically retired in 2016.


Went back to college, and I ended up landing in Chatham, Virginia, now being served as the chaplain at Hardware Military Academy. I cannot see myself any other place than here. Absolutely love, love, love what I get to do every day.


And everybody, I had a chance to see that first hand last year and I'm telling you guys, you know, I got a permanent chance so you can't see me blushing, I'm blushing with my eyes. But it was just amazing to see a chaplain in his passion, not a job.


And more importantly, watching the relationship and interaction with those young students up there, those amazing professionals, those males that's in that school about to do amazing things. But let's talk about that, chaplain.


From my basic understanding, you land this job, you accept the job offer, super excited. Susan. And then. Everything goes crazy. So, so I got, I got, I got my job in 2020. And Chatham, Virginia is about two hours from North Carolina, from Fayetteville, North Carolina where I was actually stationed at when I retired.


So when I got the job, I was, I was hired as a, I was hired as an attack officer, which is a military component, but I was hired in October of 2020. I was literally driving two hours back and forth. I would stay on campus two or three nights a week or whatever.


Well, in November of 2020, I got diagnosed with COVID. Like everybody else, I got diagnosed with COVID. But because I'm from Texas, we do everything big in Texas. So I got the big version. And I'm going back and forth to the hospital, to Wormack Army Medical Center.


I'm going back and forth there. I'm trying to try and manage, trying to drive back to work or what have you. They're taking x -rays, because at the time there wasn't anything that they really knew to do about COVID.


I think they gave me some ibuprofen or something, you know? Some Nyquil, go home, cough and ate and stuff and hit fever so you can rest in medicine. But anyway, I got over the COVID and I was able to go back to work and a few weeks later, I got a phone call from the doctors and they were like, hey, one of the x -rays that we took didn't come out.


We see something on their way online. So we want you to come back in. They did a biopsy. The biopsy came back. I had small cell lymphoma in my right lung. And they were like, we've caught this thing extremely early.


We'd like to run you through six months of chemo and let's just tackle it early. Me in my arrogance scene, all I could think of was like, oh, Lord, I won't lose my hair. But I went through six months.


You have a friend of your network that can walk you through that childhood. You got there. So I did chemo and I kept it a secret. I didn't tell anybody because I was. I knew that I knew I had things in order, you know.


So if I would have, if the Lord would have taken me here, I would have, I was embarrassed. So anyway, but I made it through chemo. And when I called the commandant, six months I'd been cleared. I called the commandant, I was like, sir, I'm cleared.


I'm ready to come back to work. He says, man, it's great. He says, but I don't have a position for you. And I was like, huh? He says, but I just found out that our chaplain is resigning. And he says, and I think that you'd be perfect for the job.


I took that position and I started in August of that year of 2021. And I never looked back like there's nothing else that I would ever want to do. And so now I get the privilege and the honor of serving over 170 cadets, 50 faculty and staff, meeting them where they are for their emotional, spiritual and just relational needs.


So that's what I'm at now. I mean, I'm loving it. Oh, my God. I'm so. Oh, I. Oh, trust. I know. I I I hope other folks can get a chance to experience what I experienced with you in person. Yeah. And in one thing I noticed up there, you're an open book chapter.


Oh, yeah. You know, absolutely. Absolutely. And I believe that didn't just happen. So talk to me about being that, you know, being that chaplain. Potentially people have put you in this elevated position and now being this open book in that role.


So so so so one of the things that I learned early, I've been I've been in ministry for 23 years. As long as I've been married, I've been in ministry. And in ministry as as as in almost any leadership position, you have those individuals that will have a tendency to look at you from the perspective of you having.


everything together. Their perception versus your reality could be as far as 90 years from day. So they look at you because of whatever position or whatever title or whatever statue you have, and they make these presumptions about you.


As a chaplain, of course, in any ministry, people have a tendency to say, okay, well, because you're always speaking positive words, you know, you always got a smile on your face. Surely you've got everything together, but that wasn't the case.


The true case, the reality versus the perception was I had a ton of problems that I was dealing with. I had problems that were unresolved, problems that were untalked about, problems that were undelted with, and I was carrying them around invisibly, almost like in the Marine Corps, when I was in the Marine Corps, we had this thing called Alice PAC.


big huge, huge backpack. So if you can imagine me having on this invisible backpack and as men, what we do is we put the, put our problems that we're embarrassed about. We put our issues that we're ashamed to talk about.


We put our shortcomings that we won't discuss. We put them in our pack. We put them in our Alice pack, our invisible alpha and we walk around with them and they don't go away. They don't get resolved.


They just piled up. They piled up over and over and we just take problems and we put them and you look at it from the front, we got a smile on our face. But if you could see us in reality, we're walking around with tons of unresolved problems.


And so for me, at some point in time by God's grace, and I don't know exactly when it happened, but for some reason I decided to not only take my pack off, my pack of problems, because people tell you to leave your problems behind.


No, I took my pack off and I unpacked it. I began dealing with all this unresolved, I pulled in my, oh, there's a bankruptcy in there. I pulled in there, oh, there's a child out of wedlock. I pulled in there, oh, there's financial problems.


Oh, there's, you know, emotional problems, social. Well, I pulled all that stuff out and began to share it, to become vulnerable and humble. But in doing that, it was empowering both to me and to those that I shared it with.


And I was careful to whom I shared it with, but still I shared it, you know? And me now I get to walk with no weight. I walk in the freedom of who I am and probably more importantly, Who's I am? Yeah, and I like that too because you know because a lot of times especially folks in the military They don't have a problem running to the sound of gunfire Or calamity Yeah, no issues deploying in defense of of anything of right people can defend themselves But yet they don't a lot of them don't have the courage to Run towards their problems And don't leave the pack on the ground it's yours you could take it off Yeah, you take it off you you have to take it off, but you gotta unpack it though and yo

u keep it That's right.


I like that metaphor It's so and I love how you mentioned how it made you feel how you you didn't realize how much weight was on you and then your Personality your emotional state your health In so speaking of that do you find a do you find a better connection?


And especially as a chaplain with those you serve because they know you're just not this, you're authentic, right? Absolutely, absolutely. You are authentic. It's not that like my buddy Jerry Washington has his book called Dr.


Washington's called Simulated Realities. You're not one person on Instagram. And then... Who is this person? Yeah. On Facebook. Exactly, exactly. So what one of my philosophies, and I have several philosophies in life that I literally live by, but one of the things that I have a philosophy of is that I have the privilege, I get the privilege of serving over 170 boys.


And I do that by earning the right to be heard in their lives. Just because I'm an adult doesn't give me the right to speak in it in their lives. Just because I'm a man doesn't give me the right. Just because I'm a veteran doesn't give me the right.


Just because I'm African American doesn't give me the right. I still have to earn that right. And I earn that right by being intimate with them, by being intentional with them, and by being intense with them.


So it's intense, it's intentional, and it's intimate. When I say intimate, Dr. Miles Monroe says it best. He says intimacy, into me, see. And it's that intimacy that is that vulnerability that we as men and as veterans have to learn how to unveil.


We have to learn how to let our guard down and know that releasing these things is releasing the enemy's power in your life. As long as you've got things a secret, as long as you've got things that you're trying to hide from others, the enemy is like, yeah, that's...


That's good. We'll just keep that a secret. That'll be just between us. Just keep it in the bag, but it's a weight and it's a burden. So I learned to just be transparent again, like I said, in context because I have certain men in my life, different values in my life, different roles.


I've got my older pals, I got my barnabas, and I got my timethings. I don't share everything with my timethings that I share with my pals. Yeah, the power of a network and mentors and a group of diverse mentors know your audience, like Chapman said.


There's certain groups that they're capable of even receiving what you're about to say to them. Then there's some other folks you might say something like, whoa. Yeah, I might throw you off. Mario, I didn't, man, I didn't know you were dealing with that.


I'm sorry to drop that on you. But I'm into a Bill Page told me one time he says it's okay for you to share your dirty laundry Yeah, man, I mean and I love it too because I've had numerous discussions With with lots of people but for the most part the trend I have seen was males men who feel Feel being vulnerable Unarmored talk removing your armor is not courageous You know it shows a sign of weakness.


Have you ever experienced that with your colleagues? So in your family was was very hesitant even yourself where they were like that's a sign of weakness Yeah, yeah, so like for me You know One of the definitions that I learned was was meekness people have a tendency to associate meekness with being weak Meekness is not weak.


Clark Kent was meek. He was he was he had strength, but it was under control and so When I deal with my my issues I deal with them in a very personal way, but I Learned that I've got to share them with trusted individuals in my life Who will give me good and wise?


Counsel it's it's a humbling experience to go to someone and have them and be able to share with them When you have lost a child Your child, you know, I found out that my son Had a son prior to my marriage Who joined the army who committed suicide and And to be vulnerable like that To be able to share that type of if when you're at the top of your game When you you know, you're you're the first African -American chaplain in the hundred years in 14 year history of your school and everything is looking good.


And you find out what I can't tell them about this son because he's my son prior to my marriage. That's going to, that's going to, you know, they're going to have a different attitude about me or look at me differently.


We I couldn't carry that burden alone. And so God showed me that he had already supplied me with men around me to support me and keep me lifted up in the midst of a time, a trying time that I could not have done it by myself.


And so that's, that's where I'm at now. You know, I get to serve life with with with some boys and make an impact in their lives, possibly potentially for the rest of their lives. I absolutely love it.


Oh, and you are doing you are doing just that and so you got a hundred and seventy plus young men That need you and i'm not gonna be selfish because you know, I will keep you forever if I could my friend But as we close out, I'll let you go back to having so much fun.


You got this amazing Thought process and you just said the word get You share the audience As we close out chaplain. What are you? How do you how do you how does that drive you? So so my attitude I I've come to the realization that our thought process Manifests itself in our words and so if I if I change my thought process, then I'll change my words Uh, we have a tendency to say what we've got to do How many times have you woke up?


You say I got to go to work tomorrow I got to go to the store. I got to pay these bills And when you say what you've got to do, it's an obligation. It's a burden. It's a responsibility But if you just simply change that got to To the privilege that it is which is a get to It changes the whole outlook on what it is that you're doing I get to go I get to go to work.


I get to pay my bills I get to get up in the morning. And so I wake up with a get to attitude every single day And my get to attitude I hope that my get to attitude becomes contagious because now I get I get my boy walking around campus and I get to go Take this test You already got me.


You see I'm small because I'm like man, it's cold outside. So I get the freeze, baby. That's That is a bonus. You get to enjoy the cold weather, you know I get to enjoy it. It changes the attitude of everything, you know, so that's I love it Look, if in the next medical appointment, I would be like this.


I get to go to medical I I get to how much do I owe this mortgage? I get to pay this. I get to pay my bills. Absolutely. Well, it's been a pleasure, Chaplain. I love you. And thank you for kicking off 2024 on the Unarmored Talk podcast.


How can people support the Hardgrave Military Academy? Really, you can just support us by, you know, you can go to social media, hardgrave .edu. See what we're doing. We are a, we're in a small town, but we've got cadets that come from all over.


We've got cadets from China. We've got cadets from Rwanda. We've got cadets from Zimbabwe. We've got cadets from Germany. And so, and we've got cadets from right around the corner, you know, and these young men are going out into the world.


Many of them, many of them... not having a proper support system, you know, so embrace a young man and become his Paul in his life and give him words of wisdom and encouragement, but be intentional, be intense and be intimate and share with them, you know, the trials and terminals of true life so that when they make those pitfalls that they are prepared.


I like the three eyes and I get to say I love you because I get to continue to be your friend. Absolutely. Bless and get to do everything I can because you got me already. And I got to do anything. That's it.


And last thing is again, changing that mentality. When you go into problems, the Bible says that James says when we experienced various trials, not if, but when. The mentality says, oh, I'm going through it.


No, you're growing through it. Like it because you're going to grow through your trial. That's the reason why we have tests. We don't give tests so that you because you already know the information. If you already know the information, you don't need a test is so that you don't know the information or we want to test you make sure that you know the information so that you can move to the next next phase.


So when you're going through it, don't say you're going through it. Say you're growing through it. Nice. Well, thank you so much and everybody will see you guys in a couple of weeks for more episodes for this entire year.


But until you hear me or I see you, you guys know how how I sign off. God bless you. God bless your family members and God bless your friends. Take care of yourself. Thank you for listening to this most recent episode and remember you can listen and watch all of the previous episodes on my YouTube channel.


The best way to connect to me and all of my social media is follow me on the parade deck. That is www .parade deck .com or you can click on the link in the show notes. I'll see you guys soon.

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