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Interview with W. Clayton Hoffman, May 3, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with W. Clayton Hoffman, May 3, 2008
May 3, 2008
Interview with Retired Chaplain Clayton Hoffman.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hoffman, Clayton Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  5/3/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  40 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. Today is the third of May in the year 2008, and we're in Kansas City, Missouri. This videotape is part of the Military Chaplains Oral History Project, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Good afternoon, Chaplain. How are you?

Hoffman: I'm fine. Like the day.

Zarbock: I'd like to introduce you to Retired Chaplain, Clayton Hoffman. Sir, what individual or series of individuals, or event or series of events, led you into selecting the ministry as your life's vocation?

Hoffman: Well, strangely enough, when I was doing Clinical Pastoral Education, there was someone came by and said that he'd never met a chaplain or a clergy that wasn't mother-called. I had to do a lot of contemplation on that, but finally realized that my mother did have a tremendous impact on my life. And then, in 1957, I married a beautiful young lady who was my high school sweetheart, Mary. And Mary also had a great deal of influence on directing and guiding my life along the way. Then also I joined the Alabama National Guard when I was a junior in high school, and spent several-- five years with the Alabama National Guard, and they were a four-point-two, or a four-point deuce mortar outfit, which was artillery, and I was chief of FDC section.

Zarbock: What is FDC?

Hoffman: Fire Direction Center. And there after a while, I enjoyed it immensely, experiencing other soldiers who were just back from Korea. And I saw some great needs in their lives at that time. However, at that particular time, I still did not surrender to go in the ministry.

Zarbock: What sort of needs did you notice, Chaplain?

Hoffman: Some of them, just spiritual guidance. They were depressed. Some were in need of what I know now, is therapy. Some of them were having family problems after they had returned. Some of them were experiencing difficulties at work. However, I did not recognize, at that particular time, the significance of all of that. It was later on in my life, that this began to surface in a unique way. And maybe it'd be helpful to give you just a little journey of how all of that came around. Because after I finished high school, I moved to Mobile, Alabama. And while I was in Mobile, Alabama, there was a National Guard-- I mean, an Army Reserve unit, that I became a part of.

Zarbock: Now, what year was that, Chaplain?

Hoffman: The year that I became a part of the Army Reserve was in 1959. However, in 1958 and '59, I went to Auburn University, and was going to become a chemical engineer. And somehow that chemical engineer kind of got interrupted, and that's whenever I went to Mobile and started working with the L and N Railroad, and was going to work a year and go back and finish my clinical training. However, that one year ended up into five years, because I didn't know that young men made as much money as I was making at the L andN Railroad. So I just continued to work. And it was while I working at the L and N Railroad, that my wife and I got very involved in the First Baptist Church at Plato. And my pastor at that time was very evangelistic. And it was during that time I knew that the Lord was calling me into the ministry.

Zarbock: How old were you?

Hoffman: At that particular time I was twenty-eight years old.

Zarbock: And that's when you felt a calling.

Hoffman: That's when I was aware of it for the first time. However, as I look back and do some reflection on it, I was convinced that the Lord was dealing with me and moving me in this direction, and preparing me. And in this five years of which I was also part of an Eight Inch Gun on Hertail Street in Mobile, Alabama, and I was a chief of section, at that time. Then again, I was dealing with my platoon and they continued to have some difficulties along with way.

Zarbock: What was your rank, sir?

Hoffman: At that time, I was E6. I have made every rank there is, from Private E-nothing to a full-bird colonel, except E7, E8, E9, and first lieutenant. And so I, while I was at L and N Railroad, they were laying off people, or going to lay off people and reduce the number of crews. So, they said to all of us, "We're going to pay some people a year's salary to turn in their resignation." So as a result of that, I wanted to do that. And strangely enough, there was up to eighteen that were going to get it. And so after they let the eighteen go, I went down and talked to our trainmaster, and said to him, "Look, I've been going to school a year at night, and working at the railroad on Thursday and Friday night, and Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Monday night, so-- and taking a full load." And he said to me, "Clayton, there are three people in ahead of you. If you can get those three to sign a release, then I will permit you to-- and give you the year's salary." One of them lived on, in Baldwin County, which is about forty miles from Mobile, one lived on the north side of Mobile, and the other one lived on the south-- or in the southern part of Mobile. Strangely enough, I walked out of the railroad station that day, and there those three men were standing, carrying on a conversation. And they said, "Of course I will do that."

And so they paid me a year's salary, so I resigned the L and N Railroad, entered University of Mobile, Alabama full-time, and started my journey. It was there that I took some Psychology courses. It was there that I did some reflection on, you know, what was going on in my life. I began to look at other people, and feeling that that is exactly what I needed to do. So I majored-- or got a double major in Math and Psychology, and then went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and feeling very strongly. At that particular time, the Korean War was pulling down, and I wanted to go into the chaplaincy, at that time. However, one of the professors who was heading up the Air Force Chaplaincy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said, "Clayton, there's no way. We are getting rid of chaplains left and right, now, so there's no need anywhere." So, as a result of that, I forgot about becoming a chaplain, and went ahead and graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary...

Zarbock: At what year, sir?

Hoffman: Finished up Southwestern in 1971.

Zarbock: You must have been in your middle teens-- I mean, middle twenties, at that time.

Hoffman: Latter twenties. I'm beginning to get up at twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty years of age at this particular time. And we went to a church, at First Baptist Church Holliday, we spent two years there. And a church in Amarillo called me to, Amarillo Baptist Church called me to be their pastor in Amarillo. And when I got to Amarillo, one of the chaplains that had just been riffed from the Vietnam War, lived immediately, right across the street from me.

Zarbock: He was an Army guy.

Hoffman: Yes, and he was a Major. So, but he was in the Army Reserves. And so he began to talk to me, "Clayton, you need to get a commission." I was not interested. I just said to him, you know, "I don't have time. I don't want to fill out all those papers." Well, one day he came by and he said, "Clayton, I have a clerk down at the Army recruiting station, and he doesn't have anything to do today. He'll fill out all your paperwork." So I went down, he filled out all the paperwork, sent it in, and so I received a direct commission as a 2nd Lieutenant as Chaplaincy. At that time, some interesting things began to happen in my life. For the Basic Corps, I was ready to go.

But then, a church in Abilene, Texas, called me and wanted me to come to be their pastor at that time. And this was in 1977. At that time I went there, went to the Basic Corps, and then I joined the Texas Army National Guard and was appointed to the 3rd Tank, a 3rd Battalion of the 49th Army Division. While I was there two years, the Texas National Guard put me on active duty to go to Brooke Army Medical Center, to train and do an internship in Clinical Pastoral Education. And that's where I had an opportunity to begin to really reflect, and look upon the lives of the people I have encountered as an enlisted person. And then, with my psychology and willingness to get involved in the Clinical Pastoral Educational part of this, to really get to minister, because I wanted to minister in a hospital setting. And so they assigned me to Brooke Army Medical Center and I worked-- I was there for two years in an internship.

Zarbock: Reflect a little bit-- again, for the purpose of this tape-- the Clinical Pastoral Education. What was that like?

Hoffman: This is a continuation of the study in Psychology, where, instead of reading the textbook, you read the living document, that patient that is in the bed. And, strange enough, one of the more important ones I think I came to, I went into a room one day, or I went on one of the wards, and the nurses said to me, "Chaplain Hoffman, we have a man that's back in the third-- where the curtain was drawn, was in the third bed. I think it would be good if you went and talked to him." Well, when I went back and talked to this person, he looked like death. He had had his leg amputated above the ankle, then he had an amputation at the knee, and then he'd had an amputation about halfway up the thigh. And what had happened to this poor guy, was he was taking a shower, he had put a stool, so he'd put his stump upon the stool, and then take his shower there. And he had fallen, and had injured the stump to the point, and he was a diabetic, of which had very, very difficult healing. Matter of fact, this one did not heal. And he reminded me of death more so than anything I've ever seen. And that one particular experience really gave me a salivation to go out and work with soldiers to get them prepared to go on to be with the Lord, when, when something happened. And that was the beginning. And then, after I finished up the two years of Clinical Pastoral Education. As a matter of fact, while I was in Brooke Army-- or at Brooke Army Medical Center-- I started working on a Doctorate Degree in Pastoral Counseling. And then after I finished up the two years of Clinical Pastoral Education in, at Brooke Army Medical Center, High Plains Baptist Hospital in Amarillo, Texas, asked me if I would come and be the Director of the Department of Pastoral Services. So I moved back to Amarillo. And the first two years is whenever I wrote my dissertation for my Doctor of Minister degree in Pastoral Counseling. And I wrote it on anger in Southern Baptist clergy located in, with-- anger in Southern Baptist clergy with negative and positive aspects of ministry located in the Panhandle of Texas, which was a very interesting study, to say the least, at that point.

Zarbock: And threatening to some people.

Hoffman: Very threatening. About ninety percent of the clergy there were pleased to hear it and read about it. About ten percent of them did not want to hear about the anger that was coming out of the pulpit. Of course, I had quite a bit of anger, and they'd process this at Brooke Army Medical Center. And it was in the process of my own anger that I learned to work with other soldiers, because I find and have found a lot of anger also in the military.

Zarbock: As the result of what? What's the gist?

Hoffman: A lot of them is in-- a lot of it goes back into being in a conflict with their father, mostly, or mother, or a person who had a great deal of power and authority over them. Yet what I discovered, though, is how-- let's take this anger and use it in an assertive way rather than repressing it and suppressing it, and it has been a beautiful ministry with me all the way in that.

Zarbock: How do you use anger in a positive way? Productive way?

Hoffman: Well, anger and hostility-- anger is on a continuum of where the extreme part of it is rage. However, we handle it passive-aggressive, and we also handle it in an aggressive. And so then a lot of my ministry's been how to take these and show it in an assertive way. In an assertive way, you use it for motivation to improve, to change lives, to change behavior, to change patterns of thinking. And that has been the avenue of much of my ministry with the private E1s, the corporals, the sergeants, commanders, including colonials and also generals. And I'd had just one beautiful experience for thirty-one years, working with all levels. And I would say that probably, where I've helped most of them, have been officers who have been commanders, who would lose their temper and get upset and say, "Chaplain, I have to talk to you." And I, fortunately, I've had that kind of relationship with every commander I have had, and I have served with one two-star who confided in me a great deal about, you know, what he was feeling. And he sees this with his men, and also he wants to do something, but he needs to back off just a little bit. And so, it's been a beautiful ministry. And I guess the-- where it came to surface the most is, I was-- I had been the 2nd Brigade chaplain in, of the Texas National Guard in Forth Worth, Texas. And they needed a chaplain in 217th Evac Hospital in San Antonio. And so that transferred me down there. And of course while I was in San Antonio, that's when the Persian Gulf War started, in 1990 and 1991.

Zarbock: Are you a member of the United States Army or the Texas National Guard?

Hoffman: I am; I was Texas National Guard, I was Army Reserve, and also went on active duty. I was put on two years of active duty at Brooke Army Medical Center. And then in 1990, I received-- we were mobilized. The 217 Evac Hospital was mobilized for Desert Storm. And so then, we were sent to Riyadh for Desert Storm. And again, where all of this training came into play was, fortunately, unfortunately, we were the last unit into Saudi Arabia before the war started. And the night that we-- the first night that we were there, we had not even had an opportunity to do any reconnaissance to know who was around us. And of course we were put in these high-rise buildings that they built for the Bedouins. And of course, the story goes that they built the high-rise apartments for the Bedouins, that brought the Bedouins in, and they had all their camels. And the Bedouins said, "Where do we put our camels?" And they said, "Well, you don't need your camels anymore, we're going to have [inaudible]." And the Bedouins said, "No, thank you, we do not want your high-rise apartments." Even though these high-rise apartments were-- they were, they were just beautiful, to say the least.

Zarbock: But that was a solution that didn't fit the problem.

Hoffman: So they didn't have water, but they had electricity. So that's where we were. And so the first night that we were there, the SCUDs started coming in.

Zarbock: For the purpose of the tape, what is a SCUD?

Hoffman: A SCUD? That is what Saddam Hussein's military, his Royal Guard, were firing at us. It was a, it's an artillery projectile that has a much longer range than even an eight-inch gun. And it was not well-guided. They really didn't know where it was going when they fired it. But it was fired from Iraq into Riyadh, or all over Saudi Arabia. And of course they were set up in Kuwait and also in Iraq. And so they would have a distance of about forty, fifty miles, sixty miles with it. I would think--

Zarbock: What was happening in the high rise at-- ? This was nighttime and the SCUDs are coming in.

Hoffman: Yes. The SCUDs started coming in. But what we didn't know, was that they had had a Patriot Battery about 300 yards from where we were. And so, what happened when the SCUDs started coming in, the Patriot Battery started firing at the SCUDs and knocking them out of the air. So, as we heard the Patriots firing, we thought it was the SCUDs landing. Of course, the decision was already made before we got there, if we were attacked, to move on the third floor. And so, everybody moved up on the third floor. So we had about 275 people in the hospital: physicians, nurses, medical technicians and all. So, in the third floor, we all crammed in like sardines. Well, we had fifteen of our hospital Corpsmen were Vietnam veterans. Well, the first thing that took place that night, was we had one of the nurses who was afraid that-- for her life. And she was a beautiful blonde, and of course that's what she understood that the Iraqis like, to capture the beautiful blonde women. And she had that kind of fear. So she panicked. Well, we were stacked in like sardines. Our men literally took me and handed me, passed me over everybody, over to her. And of course, as soon as I got her calmed down and talked with her, and again, this is where the training came in, and I spent, I would say, about ten minutes with her.

And, about the time I got her calmed down, three of our people that had come out of Vietnam was with us, they started having flashbacks. And they were scattered at different places-- so our people literally took me again and passed me, that night, to four different sites of where I could work with them using the training, concerning again, the emotional aspect of our people with their flashback, which of course what we call today is post-traumatic distress syndrome. So it has been this kind of ministry that was so exciting to me.

And then, after we got back from the National-- well, before we-- after the war was over, there, there were three of us who came together: Horace Duke out of Seattle, Washington, who was a lieutenant colonel, a Major Myers that was out of Georgia, and myself, all of us chaplains, we went to Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, and somehow, God, you know, brings us together. And all three of with the same mind, "We are not going to send our troops back like they did in Vietnam." Now, I had already worked with a lot of our Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and I knew that's what it was. And so, I didn't want to see them go back in that condition. And Horace Duke had already worked with quite a number of them. Major Myers had just a deep interest in this particular field, as well. So we had the ear of General Schwarzkopf's chaplain, we had already talked to him about it. And so he had shared it with General Schwarzkopf, what we were about. And when General Schwarzkopf realized that war may not last very long, which was a hundred-hour war, so he immediately said, "Put these two-- these three chaplains together, and have them to write and develop and implement the Redeployment Reunion Program."

And so, in one week-- first of all, maybe I need to say I was assigned to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital when we got there, or got to Riyadh. And of course that's where the king and all of his family goes to the hospital. And it is true, this: the bathtubs were laid in gold, the handles that turns the water on, the faucets, they were gold. It was one beautiful place, very opulent. And we had all-- or I, had all the materials, because I had established a relationship with the physicians and the director of the hospital. And so, as soon as we put on this task, they said to me, "We have all of our equipment for you." And so then they pointed me into the direction of the Minister of Finance who received his-- who is a Saudi. But he received his Master's Degree from the University of Houston. So immediately, me being from Texas and him graduating the University-- we had established a relationship and rapport, immediately. And so he was the one guided, and he paved the way.

And in one week, we had written and produced a videotape of Redeployment Reunion Program, "The Road Leading Home" is what we call it. We started briefing everyone. The 82nd Airborne had two brigades that were returned before we got the program up and gunning, running. When the 1st Brigade, I mean the 1st Battalion, of 82nd Airborne landed here, one of-- this is the report that we received as a result of that. One of the soldiers beat his wife up on the tarmac. That night, one of them threw his wife out of the fifth-floor motel window. The next day, there were-- his wife was standing between her mother and dad, and he walked up and shot her. There were twenty-seven that was arrested the first week for spousal abuse. So, needless to say, our program got top billing. All we had to walk where our military was. And so I debriefed the rest of the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, and all the hospital members that were there. Not our-- just our hospital, but all medical personnel. And also I stayed over for six months and debriefed the service people that were supporting.

Zarbock: When you say "debrief," what does that mean?

Hoffman: When we debrief, is, everybody has a story. The neat thing about it is, in the studies that I had done, I realized that in World War I, which was shell-shock, World War II, still shell-shock, same thing again out of the Korean War, they were still seeing a lot of shell-shock people. But these people were put on boats and primarily they were sent home on a boat of where the military people, the soldiers, came together and they told their story with each other. That is a debriefing. However, when we started flying our soldiers home, there was not time to tell the story. And so that's what we did in Saudi Arabia, in relationship to the debrief and doing the program, is we would meet with company level units, and sometimes they were just platoon levels, and we would let them tell their story. And that's what we did. And we hopefully had set up-- we wrote the program, also, for people to set it up here in the States, and then whenever-- to deal with their families. And so, part of what the debriefing was also, is to talk to them about, "What's going to happen whenever you get home? What are you going to do with that family? That family has changed. That wife has taken on responsibility. She has been the one running this home. And when you get home, if you walk in and try to take over, you're gonna have some conflict."

And so we would try to get them to understand, "Not only have you changed, but they've changed, back home. So be prepared for the change, and go in and spend a week or so just enjoying your family, without trying to take over or change. Learn where they are and then you begin to move back in in a very slow and a very gentle way, taking responsibility as the father, or as the mother," in some of these situations, was concerned.

And then, after I returned, I was blessed immensely by the Chief of Chaplains, sent John Rasmussen to St. Louis. Texas-- I was fifty-five years of age at that time, and Texas National Guard said, "It's time for you to retire." I had worked with some of our personnel from the Pentagon. And so, when the Chief found out about this, he sent John-- or they called me, and said, "Would you meet us in St. Louis at the Chief's Conference?" And so I went up, and they-- well, they sent orders for me to come up. And so whenever I got there, John Rasmussen said, "The Chief wants you to come and take an MIA Slot at the-- "

Zarbock: A what?

Hoffman: MIA Slot. What is MI-- ? I'm not sure. Military Installation Assistance, or something like that. Anyways, it's, it's not a regular reserve, but it is the reserve of where I went for at least two weeks every year to the Pentagon. And so whenever I got up there, they asked me to write what we call the Family Life Support Program for the Army, and some of the VA hospitals also adopted it and implemented the program in the, in the VA hospitals.

Zarbock: So you retired at that time?

Hoffman: Well, I spent two years at the Pentagon working on that and the programs of what they want. And then I was assigned as a Command Chaplain of Fort Polk, Louisiana, the IMA slot. I said MIA early. It's the IMA slots. And then was there for a year, then served one year at Fort Sill as the Command Chaplain. And then there's a garrison unit in Oklahoma City; they asked me to come and be one of their chaplains. And while I was at-- in that particular slot in Oklahoma City, of course we did our training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and also Fort Hood. Because our responsibility, if people at Fort Hood was mobilized, if a garrison unit at Fort Hood was mobilized, then we would move in and run and operate Fort Hood, Texas. So while I was there, again, they decided to close Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. There's a little story behind Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, also. Because at Fort Chaffee Arkansas, if you remember, this is after the Vietnam War was over. This was where the Vietnam refugees were brought. And that's where the riot was. And so, after they got all that settled down and everything taken care of at Fort Chaffee, what they decided to do was that they would close Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. But before they went out-- and they laid everybody off.

But before they went out the door, or the gate, they hired them back in temporary jobs. Now, this is in the late '70s. So, five years later, they decided they needed some more employees. So they started hiring permanent employees. So, as they hired permanent employees, now the temporary employees, who are the "old heads," they call themselves, are supervising the permanent employees. Well, in 1997, when BRAC came in and said, "We're turning it over to the Arkansas National Guard-- "

Zarbock: When what came in?

Hoffman: BRAC.

Zarbock: Again, for the purpose of the-- BRAC is an acronym for an organization?

Hoffman: That's the acronym for whenever they start closing down the bases. I'm sorry, I can't tell you exactly what that is, right now, at this moment.

Zarbock: That's good enough.

Hoffman: But anyway, what happened was they would have their going-away parties. But the commanders began to notice, we got a lot of angry people over here. And then as they began to assign the permanent employees to the different bases and told the "older" people, who had seniority but that didn't work any longer, because the temporary employees now were going to be sent out the gate; they were going to be fired. Yet they were very angry, because, "Hey, I've been here all these years, and here are these new people; they're getting a job and they're getting shipped someplace else." And so there was just a lot of anger and a lot of friction going on. We had about 350 residents, or active duty personal at Fort Chaffee at that time, and all these employees. So as a result of that, somebody realized, the commander realized, "We're going to need to bring somebody in here to help us deal with this conflict and this anger that we've got going, or this thing's going to explode on us." So they said, somebody said, "What we need is a clinical psychologist." So the next step, maybe, somebody said, "We need a chaplain." So someone raised their hand and said, "Hey, wait a minute. I know where a psychotherapist is, and he is commissioned as a chaplain." So they contacted me and said, "We want to give you orders and put you back on active duty, and you wouldn't have to work but four or five hours a day."

Well, the first day, or the first week that I was there, that weekend, two of the MPs received a pass, and they got their girlfriends and they took them to Dallas. And on the return trip, one of the chaplains-- or, they had an accident. And one of the MPs' girlfriends was killed. That began, two weeks later, one of the active duty persons, his wife left him. And he had a fifteen-year-old daughter that he convinced needed to stay with him. And so, as a result of that, he talked her into having sex with him. And that's just a little example of what began.

We did the first-- and all this took in-depth counseling, working with them. And in addition to that two of-- a husband and a wife, who were on active duty also, rode motorcycles. And they had a pass one weekend, and were out riding, and came into this construction area. The husband laid his bike down, but the wife plowed into the barricades, and she was killed. And so the first time in some seventeen, eighteen years, we had a military funeral at the main chapel at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. And for those of you who know about Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, you know there's a back way that you go back on the south side of the post. There's only one traffic light over there. And you go to the cemetery that is in Fort Smith, Arkansas. But we were on that road, and I was in the second car--

Zarbock: Did you officiate at the funeral?

Hoffman: Yes. I was in the second car, and the hearse was right behind us. The-- they just had one policeman that was escorting us. So as soon as he stopped at that particular traffic light to get the convoy, you know, through, or the procession, through, then he moved on to go on to the next place. Well, just as the hearse went in to that intersection, here comes a vehicle going north, traveling at about fifty-five, sixty miles-per-hour, and hit the hearse, and spun the hearse around. And believe it or not, that casket started rolling out, and it rolled out about halfway. And as I look back, the casket was sitting in the hearse. It was rocking back and forth. It is this kind of experience that I got into at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and He closed it. And there were a lot of other experiences. So whenever we talk about how God leads and guides and directs, and let me start out with my, what I know now is ministry as an enlisted person. And then as He just lead me, even to do clinical pastoral education, write a dissertation on anger, it has been just one beautiful experience to see how God has molded and shaped us to come to this point at where we are now.

Zarbock: I once read a sentence that said, "When the unexplainable takes place, it means that God preferred to be anonymous."

Hoffman: That's beautiful.

Zarbock: Isn't it?

Hoffman: And He is anonymous in many, many of our lives, or that is what we think. Yet whenever we reflect back, we can see God's hand leading and guiding and directing us.

Zarbock: Chaplain, let me ask you a couple, couple of other questions that I've asked other chaplains. At any time during your military career, were you ever ordered, was it ever hinted to you, or was it some, you know, kind of a sly wink and nudge, that wanted you to do something that you thought was the wrong thing to do?

Hoffman: I don't think I have ever been put in that position. Somehow, my commanders have respected me immensely. The closest thing I can come to what you're making reference to, is when I went to Brownwood. Brownwood 3rd Tank is-- they're very political and have tremendous political clout in Austin. And at that particular time, alcohol-- well, at that particular time alcohol was carried in the field. If you couldn't drink a case of beer and be a soldier-- well, you had to drink about a case of beer every day to be a soldier. Okay. We had a big party. We had the annual party of where the politicians in Texas came. The alcoholic beverages flowed. All the beer [inaudible] provided all the alcohol that was there. Our first one, when I was there the first year, we went ahead, we had it. And after that was over, you know, you do your after-action report. So in the staff meeting following that, everyone went around and gave a tremendous report on, you know, what a great party we had. And I was the last person. And the commander said to me, "Well, Chaplain Hoffman, what do you think? What is your report?" And I said to him, "Sir, we had a great time, except for quite a number of us, about, oh, ten or fifteen, we couldn't get anything to drink because we wanted a Coke, and we couldn't get up to the bar to get a Coke." And he said, "Well, I think I can take care of that. Why don't we, next year when we have our party, why don't we just set up a soft drink bar?"

So the next year, we set up a soft drink bar, and within an hour, it was all gone, nothing was left. And that year, we had more than fifty percent of the alcohol and the beer left over. I am one of the ones who later, and out of that experience, said to every commander I had and to some generals, "Sir, we're creating alcoholics in the military." And today, if you drink at work as military people, if soldiers drink while they're on duty, that's a court martial offense. I think that we have done a remarkable thing by saying, "Stop having alcohol as plentiful as it has been in the military."

Zarbock: What about the abundance of drugs, Chaplain? Did you experience difficulty with personnel who were taking drugs, selling drugs, or on drugs?

Hoffman: Of course I'm, I was in private practice as a psychotherapist. Military-wise, of course, we tested for drugs. And so that kept the ones that I have-- the units that I have been working with, even on active duty, we have not had a great deal of problem with the drugs on active duty, or in the Guard, or in the Army Reserves. However, I understand at the present time, there is some issues that's going on, specifically in the recruiting command with it, but not any, any great significance of it. And one of the reasons is because of high price of gasoline. And as a result of that, they need some extra money, so a lot of them are selling drugs, according to the reports that I have just received on that. And it's not so much that they're taking the drugs, but some of them are selling drugs.

Zarbock: They're in the business, really.

Hoffman: Yes.

Zarbock: Making a profit to pour gasoline into the tank.

Hoffman: And, you know, those are, those are unfortunate things. However, but these are some of the things that we chaplains deal with, and some chaplains would prefer not to talk about it, with it. But chaplains and the military is like the civilian world. What I'd like to characterize that is, I hope our military is a leader and a role model for our civilian world. And that has been true in segregation, it has been the military who has led us in direction of where we need to go in a, in a moral way. And our chaplains have been part of that heritage to lead this as we accept in a graceful way, and not only grace, but grant grace to others regardless of color, who they are, of what they have been involved in. And that has been my philosophy. Accept a person right where they are.

Zarbock: Chaplain, again, I've asked other chaplains and I'm interested, very interested in your comment. During your lifetime, have there been times when your faith has sagged? I don't want to say disappeared. I'm trying to put a neutral word in there: sagged.

Hoffman: One year at Fort Hood, Texas, when I was with the 3rd Tank out of Brownwood, Texas, that year was the most difficult year that I think the Texas National Guard has experienced. It was that year in a two-week period of time when a helicopter crashed. And three of the people on that copter that was attached to our unit, were killed. Some others were injured. I had made two-- or, I'd spent hours upon hours, and was rather tired and exhausted when I went the second time to notify-- because they put me on a helicopter to notify the family that, that their loved one had been killed. On the return trip, you know, of course on that helicopter, you're sitting back there with your toes hanging out. And so I put my elbows on my knees, and I leaned over and looked down. Never been afraid of heights in all my life, but I got scared. I was afraid of heights. And I became queasy, and I said, "It's not worth it. I don't think I can handle this." And so I pushed back, closed my eyes, abandoned it, and I was okay. The latter part of that week, one of our tanks on the firing range transferred over to one of the tanks that'd just come off the line. And they fired on this tank that was resting, and killed one of our men. When I-- they put me on a helicopter again after working with the crews, still exhausted, they put me on a helicopter, flew me to San Angelo to notify the wife who was working with the American Telephone Company. And when I go there, the CEO met me and said to me, "Chaplain, she's in Phoenix, Arizona. We have our Learjet on the runway, now. The pilot and a crew is waiting for you." So they flew me to Phoenix, Arizona, where I met her there in the airport. And they had a club room set up for us. And then we flew back with her to San Angelo. And then, on the return-- and of course we took care of that funeral, also, and did a military funeral for them.

And then on the return trip to Fort Hood, I said, "I said before, I'm not gonna do this anymore. If I have any more trouble, this is it." So I put my elbows on my shoulder, or on my knees, and I looked down, and as if the Lord said, "It's okay. Go ahead. Finish My ministry." And that's the only time I have ever had questions, was on that return-- that previous return flight on the helicopter when I got very nauseous and very queasy about being up in the air.

Zarbock: Chaplain, I want you to put together a word picture, a picture in your mind. I'm going to walk over to this very large stone, and I've got a chisel and a hammer. And I begin to carve on that rock. And what I'm beginning to carve is, when it was all said and done, everything that Chaplain Hoffman learned was assembled into his personal credo. And his credo is...

Hoffman: "Accept people right where they are. Love them; journey with them."

Zarbock: Thank you.

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