Europe spotlight: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stevan Horning
August 11, 2008
You’re a reservist, correct? I am a reservist. I was mobilized in 2002 and I’ve been, except for a short period, serving almost consecutively since then. I was working for Landstuhl (Regional Medical Center in Germany), then went to Baumholder. Basically doing the same thing I’m doing now. Then I went to Giessen and was a family life chaplain. My unit is the 256th Combat Support Hospital in Cleveland.
How did you get your current assignment? I was asked to come here by unknown people who know me or know of me. I was in Germany and still had time on my orders. I’ve done short stints in Europe before and I speak German, which helps. So, when they brought up Vicenza, I asked, "Are you sure?’ My German isn’t of much use here."
How has it worked out? They had never had a rear detachment chaplain before. I was very fortunate to have Staff Sgt. Carlos Muniz work with me. He’s been deployed before, so was very familiar with what was going on.
The 173rd lost 43 soldiers during the rotation and you were the chaplain for all the services (including those in Germany). How hard was that to deal with? We had a number of memorials while I was in Baumholder, too. When I first started out as pastor in Cleveland (in 1980), one of our members died in my first week. So I’ve been doing this kind of thing a long time.
I’ve heard a lot of praise from people in the community about the way you handled the memorial services. Each appeared to be unique, despite the large number of them.
Some individuals have come forward each time with information. I don’t call the relatives. I don’t want to interfere with whatever local pastors may be doing. I take very seriously the responsibility of research, so I can present real people to be remembered. I do feel I’ve held back the gospel reading and a lot of information I’d like to share with people. But I feel that our main goal is to remember the person or people before us.
You’ve painted portraits of some special people.
It’s been very important for me to ensure they’re properly honored. We send our best into these conflicts.
Any personal feelings about those killed? I had to wrestle with it each and every time. The anger and the temptation to be bitter about the nameless foe that keeps attacking our people.
How about the community’s reaction? I’ve talked with a lot of well-grounded Army wives who know what it’s all about. I think the leadership has been so focused on being there for the soldiers and their families … I think they realized our troops were in a strategic and also very vulnerable part of Afghanistan. We really did achieve a huge amount. The pacification, the roads, the schools, the bridges, the wells, I could go on and on.
You spent some time in Afghanistan yourself. In fact, you were there before many of the soldiers currently serving were even born.
I was a young Foreign Service officer. I was assigned to Kabul in 1972. It was a different time.
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