Care For All

They minister to those in need at home and on the battlefield. But first, they must reflect and understand themselves to help fellow soldiers, especially wounded warriors.

Chaplains from the Army’s Clinical Pastoral Education program at Fort Belvoir, Va., came to Washington on Thursday and made several poignant stops, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Photo Credit: Bill Shugarts

They visited Arlington National Cemetery and some saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the first time. They spent more time at the cemetery to watch the funeral ceremony of a Marine Corps officer. There they visited Section 60, which is where casualties of Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. Some in the group knew some of the troops buried there and they said it was an emotional experience. The group then ventured to the National Mall and started at the Lincoln Memorial, where they also saw a re-enlistment ceremony. The chaplains  visited the Korea War Memorial and finally visited The Wall.

Photo Credit: Bill Shugarts

Volunteers Bill Shugarts and Annemarie Emmet helped the chaplains find Charles Watters on The Wall. For the group, Watters was a hero of theirs. A Catholic chaplain, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. Another chaplain and Medal of Honor recipient is also on The Wall: Lt. Vincent Capodanno, a U.S. Navy chaplain. They had seen Watters’ gravesite on Chaplains Hill at Arlington.

“I can’t get over how emotional it is for me,” said Maj. Vaughn Bridges. He’s an Army chaplain and acting director of the CPE program at Fort Belvoir.

The CPE program is part of the Army’s Wounded Warrior program and the chaplains are training to work in clinical settings ranging from military hospitals stateside to field hospitals in deployed locations. Bridges said that most chaplains request an assignment to this program.

Seeing the Korean and Vietnam memorials on the same trip helped the chaplains make connections from their service to those on The Wall.

“Those wars were many years ago, but we’re all a part of it, what they went through. It’s different, but we’re part of the same military,” he said.

Photo Credit: Bill Shugarts

Chaplain Watters’ name is located on Panel  30E, Row 36 on The Wall.

Here is his story, from the Army Historical Foundation:

In July 1966, Chaplain Watters was assigned to the Republic of Vietnam and served with Company A, 173d Support Battalion, 173d Airborne Brigade. Although he was officially assigned to the 173d Support Battalion, Watters often accompanied the brigade’s line units into the field. In July 1967, after completing his 12-month tour, he voluntarily extended his tour by another six months.

In November 1967, Chaplain Watters was with 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry, as the battalion took part in the bloody fighting for Hill 875 around Dak To. For Watters, the culmination of the battle came on 19 November. During that day, an intense fire fight broke out with the enemy forces. Without thinking of his own safety, Watters began to rush out on the battle field to help collect the dying and wounded and bring them to safety. Completely exposed, Chaplain Watters administered the Sacrament of Last Rites to his dying men. Every time his unit began to charge the front line, Watters was ahead picking up the wounded and administering the sacraments to those who had fallen. He also helped carry others to safety, including a paratrooper who was in shock and unable to move from his exposed position.

 After hours of intense fighting and with the perimeter of the battlefield in a state of constant confusion, Chaplain Watters continued to maintain his composure in a time of severe crisis. For hours after the initial fighting, he kept venturing out between friendly and enemy lines picking up the wounded, providing the exhausted soldiers with food and water, administering the sacraments, and helping the medics give aid to the wounded. There were even efforts to try to restrain Chaplain Watters from his heroic and courageous deeds because of his vulnerability to enemy and friendly fire. Sadly, Watters himself became a victim of the battle raging on Hill 875 and did not survive the day.

Chaplain Watters deeds were not in vain. He helped to save many men from death and comforted those who were dying. For his own courage and bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on 4 November 1969 “for his conspicuous gallantry…unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades.” These simple yet somber words are found on his Medal of Honor citation. Chaplain Charles Watters was the first Army chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor since the Civil War. Only five Army chaplains have ever received America’s highest military decoration. In the years following Watters’ death, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School renamed its building Watters Hall. In addition, P.S. 24, a public school in Jersey City, Watters’ hometown, was renamed Chaplain Charles J. Watters School in 1988.

Chaplain Charles Watters is one of the best examples of how the U.S. Army chaplains serve their men and their country with gallantry and conspicuous courage. Chaplain Watters will always be remembered by the those he saved in a severe time of crisis. Because of this, he will also be remembered as one of the Army’s greatest soldiers.