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2012 Health Care Champions Honoree: Maj. Laird Thompson

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Chaplain Maj. Laird Thompson may have taken an unusual route to his role as hospice chaplain, but he says it’s a role for which a lifetime of experience has prepared him.

Thompson began his career with the U.S. Army straight out of high school. “A lot of times, the stories are the guy joins the Army, and they leave the home situation and they can get a little crazy. Mine was just the opposite. It brought stability, discipline and spiritual growth to my life,” Thompson says.

His path toward becoming a chaplain began while serving in Germany.

“I had a calling event. I was reading Scripture one Saturday morning in Germany and the Lord spoke my name, and I responded to that,” Thompson says.

“I thought it was my roommate, but he was sleeping and I realized it was God. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to respond to that calling.”

It took many years before Thompson realized his goal. “I had a dream for 12 years to become a chaplain. Finally, in 2007, I became a chaplain. That was quite an event for me,” Thompson says.

One of the highlights of his years as Army chaplain was a tour of duty in Kosovo.

“That’s what made me so happy. God made me for that time … I was able to help and affect a lot of soldiers positively as well as their families (while) we supported the peacekeeping efforts,” Thompson says.

After returning to the United States, Thompson began a clinical pastoral education program at Mercy. “That was such an amazing year to grow spiritually as well as just learn about myself,” Thompson says.

Today, Thompson works as a hospice chaplain for Omega Health Care of Southwest Missouri Inc.

He says his job is to support patients spiritually as well as physically. After a spiritual assessment, Thompson says he develops a spiritual care plan to assess the patient’s needs.

Subsequent monthly visits include reading Scripture or praying, helping patients reconnect with their church, locating additional resources or maybe just going fishing. Thompson also works to develop a 13-month bereavement care plan for family members.

“It’s nice when we have the ability to have a positive effect on a season of life that can be very dark for people,” Thompson says.

While caring for the dying can be difficult, Thompson said it’s where he is meant to be. “Challenging situations are just opportunities to show grace, love and compassion as I serve their needs,” he says.

“Everything in my life prepared me to do what I’m doing now, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in ministering.”

Click here for full coverage of the 2012 Salute to Health Care.

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