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A Police Chaplain Remembers His Mentor...And The Oklahoma City Bombing

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2023 3:05 am

A Police Chaplain Remembers His Mentor...And The Oklahoma City Bombing

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 10, 2023 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, "A ministry of presence" is what police chaplain service means to Greg Giltner. His response to the terrorist attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building was characteristic of his service, and that of his comrades and mentors. 

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For doing that doesn't stop, download the Home Depot app. And we return to our American stories. Up next, a story from a police chaplain in Oklahoma City on the events and the mentor that changed his life. Let's get into the story. Very seldom do we get called to retirement parties, to birthday parties, to anniversary parties, unless alcohol's involved and there's a fight.

We don't get involved in good stuff, is what I'm saying. We're always on a call that's the worst day for that person or that family. Same thing happens in our police family. As a chaplain, we respond to those incidents that are the worst day. Police officer's son killed in a car wreck.

Police officer and his wife given birth to a stillborn. I've had to be at the hospital when that's happened twice. We're there when it's the worst time. I didn't take this job to proselyte. I did not take the job to add numbers to the church. I took the job to give the presence of God at a time of difficulty. Whatever their faith is or if they're not a believer, as long as they wear a badge and a gun, I'm there to try to give peace and comfort.

My name is Greg Giltner. I'm currently the chief at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. Prior to that, I was an officer at the Oklahoma City Police Department. I started with Oklahoma City in 1988, and I retired in 2015. My first experience with the chaplaincy, I was appointed as the FOP, or Fraternal Order of Police chaplain, in 2004.

And that's a position that I still hold. The chaplains that I worked with, the chaplains that mentored me, were very kind, caring, Christian examples. I mean, if you look at Jesus and the 12 apostles, I can name 12 chaplains that I would look at and say, they've helped me through my most difficult times.

But I was very fortunate when I hired on at Oklahoma City in 1988. We had a chaplain that was a father figure to me. Chaplain Poe became a father figure to me. In 1990, I lost my dad.

At age 53, he had a heart attack, deer hunting. He comforted me through that. I was working patrol in 1991. I was involved in a fatality wreck on duty with a drunk pedestrian. Two o'clock in the morning, a.26 drunk ran out in front of my patrol unit.

Chaplain Poe came to my house, brought food to my house to minister to me and my wife. In 1992, I was an FTO, a field training officer, and I was involved in a shooting December the 12th of 1992. The suspect was distraught with his family and had a 14-inch butcher knife and tried to stab me and my rookie partner. We ended up getting involved in a deadly force situation. I was sued for $2.7 million for the shooting by the family.

They ended up getting no money out of it. But once again, Chaplain Poe was there. And then the bombing happened in 1995. That day, I was on the street working, working day shifts, South Division.

Chaplain Poe was the full-time chaplain. I was actually running paperwork downtown when the bomb went off. Didn't know what it was. I had never been in the federal building. I actually thought it was a courthouse, and it was just a large mushroom come up. I thought it was some type of a gas explosion.

I never entered my mind it was a terrorist deal. There was a lot of damage, had to park the car about four blocks away, and then I just ran to the scene, so I got there about 9.15. I was there till 7.30 that night. When something like that happens, we go on 12-hour shifts. 12 hours on, 12 hours off.

Your days off, your vacation days, all that stuff goes by the wayside, so we strictly went on 12-hour shifts. But I remember Lieutenant John Clark tapping me on his shoulder at 7.30 and saying, Giltner, you need to go home. And I ignored him at first because I was in operation mode.

We were still finding people. So when he tapped me on his shoulder, he goes, You've been here all day. You need to go home. That was a Wednesday because it was a church night, and I realized at 7.30, church is at 7.30, and I've got a 25-minute drive to church. My uniform was a wreck. I was a wreck.

Once again, I had never been to the building before, and when I got there, I ended up on the south side of the building, which is where the daycare was. So most of the injuries and fatalities that I saw and dealt with were the kids. So I got in the car, and as soon as I sat down in the car and headed home, I started thinking about my own three kids. They would have been two, five, and eight, and I'd just been dealing with kids. So obviously I get to church late.

I go in. I knew where their Bible classes were, so I interrupted three Bible class teachers, and I'm a wreck. The preacher and a couple of deacons had seen me come in, and they kind of got me calmed down, but I needed to see my own kids. Once I did that, I was okay, but Chaplain Poe and I worked the scene together for a couple of days. I will say this about Chaplain Poe, chaplaincy in general, but particularly Chaplain Poe. As an officer involved in a shooting, as an officer involved in a fatality wreck, as an officer that had a significant loss with my dad, being at homicide scenes, being at significant crime scenes, when Chaplain Poe showed up, there was just a sense that everything's going to be okay. He drove a little green Mazda Miata, and when we saw that car pull up, we'd all look at each other and go, it's going to be okay.

The chaplain's here. He had that aura about him. He didn't even have to say anything. Just his presence had a calming effect on us. And so I had learned from him. It wasn't so much what you said. It was just being there at a time, giving somebody a hug, giving them a smile.

I won a lot of friends over a cold bottle of water, so I learned from the best. So when I was asked to be the chaplain, he fully supported that. The 1995 deal, the bombing. I didn't know any of the kids that I had dealt with, and I was okay with that because if I have a name, it makes it personal, and I didn't know names. Sometime after the bombing, one of the grandmas of two of the little boys that were killed reached out to me, and she said, I understand you may have been with my grandsons when they died.

I met her for coffee, reluctantly, and what I had to do was suck it up because she found comfort knowing that somebody was with her grandkids. I had bad, bad memories of what I saw if those were her grandkids. She'd asked me to describe the kids that I had dealt with, and the kids I dealt with were dismembered.

You couldn't recognize if they were male or female, just terrible. But I remembered clothing, and I described a couple of the kids that had clothing items. She identified both of those as her grandsons. Now that puts a name to it and it makes it personal. Those are names that stuck with me. Every Christmas, she would send me Christmas ornaments with the boys' names on it. Therapeutic for her, but a reminder to me of something tragic. And I'm okay with that.

I've dealt with that through counseling, but it's not something I'll ever forget. But as a patrol officer, I would go to work every day. Every day was a new day. Whatever Oklahoma City threw at us, we handled, and I could go home and be done with it.

There was no follow-up. That was for the detectives. I could start every day a new day. When I became the chaplain, I was doing weddings for people. I was doing funerals for families. And even though I'm retired from Oklahoma City Chaplaincy, I did a funeral yesterday for a retired officer that I'd worked with. The thing in the chaplaincy that I've learned over the years is that chaplaincy is a ministry of presence. You have to be where they are at the time that they're hurting, and sometimes that's an ugly place to be. Chaplain Poe and I still stay in contact. He does some volunteer work.

But like myself, I'll still take those phone calls because of those relationships. So if you're a person that doesn't know much about police chaplaincy, and the next time you watch a TV program where there's an officer-involved shooting, the next time you see a TV show where there was horrific fire, where there was loss of life, know that there's a chaplain that's going to be waiting back at a briefing station to give those families comfort. You won't see them on TV.

They're not going to be vocal. But they're that silent angel that's in the back that tries to minister to people at their worst. And a terrific job on the production, editing, and storytelling by our own Monty Montgomery. And a special thanks to Greg Giltner, who is a police officer at Oklahoma City from 1988 to 2015, also a police chaplain.

He's the silent angel in the back trying to minister to people at their worst. The story of Greg Giltner, the story of so many officers and so many people who serve our officers, and that's police chaplains here on Our American Stories. Now is the time to experience America's pastime in a whole new way. Major League Baseball has teamed up with T-Mobile for Business to advance the game with next-gen 5G solutions, going deeper with real-time data visualization, new camera angles that put fans on the field with their favorite players, even testing an automated ball strike system in the minor leagues. This is the 5G era of baseball. See what we can do for your business at T-Mobile.com slash now. Major League Baseball trademarks used with permission. Officially licensed product of MLB Players Incorporated.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-10 04:48:02 / 2023-08-10 04:53:32 / 6

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