National Guard Chaplain Eric Olsen retires

— Helping others deal death is part of a chaplain’s job, and he performed that duty many times in his career, Olsen said. Four battalion Soldiers were killed in action during the deployment, and death in the field is different, he stressed.

“If someone dies here, we can grieve,” he said. “If someone dies there, we have to roll right back into the mission.” Though grief is a necessary process, it can go on forever, he stressed.

After serving as the 42nd Infantry Division chaplain, Olsen became chaplain of the New York Army National Guard in 2008 – holding that position as a full-time officer. The global war on terror and the Soldiers’ needs created a need for a full-time chaplain, Olsen explained.

“Moving from a strategic force to an operational force has put a strain on our Soldiers and their families,” Olsen said.

Olsen helped establish the New York Army National Guard’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program, which helps service members and their families readjust after a deployment.

Olsen’s awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and the New York State Defense of Liberty Medal for service after 9/11.

He plans to return to prison chaplaincy following his retirement, Olsen said. The respective roles are similar, insofar they involve people are separated from their families in difficult circumstances, he explained.

“Working with men and women in the Army, you have people with goals and values and honor,” he said. “in prison, you’re helping people find those things.”

Olsen also plans to spend more time with his wife and his sons, Garth and Evan. This is the, “perfect time to retire,” he said.

“I think if I don’t go now, I’ll miss opportunities with my kids,” Olsen said. “I think I’m just ready.”

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