VA Medical Center tends to veterans’ spiritual needs

The Fresno Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Photo courtesy of VA Central California Health Care System)

As a lead chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Fresno, Terry Rommereim encounters many veterans who are looking for guidance.

Rommereim, along with fellow VA Chaplains Karl Wyneken, John Saethre and Steve Mounts, visits every patient that is admitted to the hospital and assesses their spiritual background to see if they are open to more visits.

“Many times they want prayer and literature that’s hopeful,” Rommereim said. “We are also there to listen to them, listen to their challenges and their stories. Our veterans have lots of stories to share.”

When patients have serious conditions, Rommereim visits them daily. There’s also a worship service every Sunday in the community living center, which is the long term care part of the hospital.

Fresno VA Lead Chaplain Terry L. Rommereim (Contributed photo)

“That becomes their church,” Rommereim said. “It’s open to anybody that wants to come.”
On Wednesdays, the hospital provides service that is open to staff, volunteers and outpatients.

“That’s for half an hour. It’s a Christian service,” Rommereim said.

Then there are support groups like AA meetings, which Rommereim leads twice a month in the mental health building.

“We do a presentation and facilitate a discussion,” Rommereim said. “That’s for the outpatient chemical dependency program.”

When necessary, the VA hospital provides individual counseling for veterans and their families.

“It could be for any veteran that is going through challenges,” Rommereim said. “Maybe it’s related to PTSD or other issues that they go through.”

One of the major plans for the near future is to start a spiritual support group that focuses primarily on moral injuries.

“Moral injury has to do with the wounds that our veterans have when they come back from battle,” Rommereim said. “They have seen comrades killed and wounded for life. Sometimes they have anger, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. We want to work with these veterans and their families to help them deal with these wounds they have inside them.”

Although many of the services are christian based, Rommereim said there are still plenty of programs that are receptive to people of all backgrounds.

“The support groups such as AA and Soul Care are open to any person. I play it by ear and if there are several people from different religions, I tailor it so we never impose a particular religion on people,” Rommereim said.

Rommereim encourages people to do whatever is possible to support veterans.

“The best thing people can do is to encourage veterans to tend to their spiritual life,” Rommereim said. “That’s very important in a person’s life, especially if they have PTSD or suicidal ideation.”