“Ukraine and Poland now represent where we need to stand so we prevent the terrible kind of outcome of World War Two,” Lt. Col. Philip Blom, pastor, military chaplain, lecturer at the U.S. Air Force Academy, creator of training materials, currently also involved in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, told Against the Tide TV. Pastor Blom stressed that it was an honor for him to meet with Ukrainian soldiers. “I believe they will win,” he said in an interview with Tymoteusz Chojecki.
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Tymoteusz Chojecki: Our guest today is Philip Blom – military chaplain, teacher at the United States Air Force Academy, and author of training materials. Now giving humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Welcome, sir, to our TV. They call you “disaster pastor”. Why do you have this nickname?
Rev. Lt. Col. Philip Blom: It’s just the way that ministry developed over my life. When there was a disaster, a hardship, it seemed that I was the one that was called to come and help with the recovery. And that happened on several occasions, including a big flood that happened in my home in North Dakota. And then 9/11, I was called to the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., a big storm called Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I went there and helped. And then several other smaller things. But my nickname came from those disasters and I was a pastor in each of those. So that’s where the nickname came.
What were you doing in Pentagon during 9/11?
I was the chaplain for what’s called the Crisis Action Team to try to serve after the crisis and be an Action Team together. My specific role was to be a chaplain for the leadership that was there and then also to oversee chaplains all over the world. We had 120 chaplains and 99 chaplain assistants in 23 different countries because our nation believes that chaplains should be there for our military wherever they go. So whenever the military goes somewhere, we send a chaplain with them. So they always have that presence of their spiritual care available to them.
You served in Air Force Academy, and you said you wrote a manual for teachers for the core values of followership. Can you tell us what these core values for leadership are?
Yes, I had the privilege of going there. It was approximately seven years that I was there. And the core values of the United States Air Force are called “integrity first”, “service before self” and “excellence in all we do”. Those three core values for leadership and service are integrity, service before self, and excellence and all we do.
How do you teach those values to students?
That’s a good question. Mostly by our discussion and taking a look at what is in the core value. Core value is inside you spiritually and in your heart. So when you dig deep for something to draw on, that’s the core of your life. Many would call that the spiritual life. What is at the core of your serving and your leadership? We would hope that they would grasp integrity and service before self and excellence in all we do. Those are the three core values.
Why did you come to Poland? What’s your mission now?
I am retired from all of that. I’m 71 years old, and I just had a meaningful… it was a health crisis. I was not well. But during that time, I learned of many who are extending their care and their faith to Ukraine for the sake of the well-being of the people and for their enormously important cause. And I went to some of those churches, especially Christ the King Lutheran in Bloomington, Minnesota. They raised funds for the buses that took those that were fleeing the country and also repatriating. So they wanted to do one bus and they were so generous. They ended up with 12 buses. That was my first. And then Grace Church in Roseville, Minnesota, packed bags full of medical supplies and cold weather clothing for children. And then another church called Mindekirken, Norwegian Church in Minneapolis also did fundraising for me. And they helped me to be able to come to hear.
Now you were in Lviv, in Ukraine. What was your impression of this visit? Was it your first time in Ukraine?
I’ve never been to Ukraine, and it was simply wonderful because of the people I was able to be with. The city is very packed because it has so many people that have fled and they’re there. Very, very congested. But I found nothing but kindness. And I was so impressed with the beautiful people and the way that they cared for one another and also their story of how they may have fled from the border when the war started. One family that I met: spoke Russian, but immediately said, I am not Russian. I speak Russian, but I am not. And his home was destroyed. And he fled with his wife and she was pregnant to give birth in just a few months. And they fled. And I met them now. They were walking with their baby. It was very moving to talk to them about their story and to be able to be of help to them and to children by bringing medicines and clothing. It was my great privilege.
What motivation do you have, and why do you support Ukraine?
Well, I believe that I have been blessed by God to be a blessing to others. And that in any way that I can, I want to be a blessing with my life. I’m also very motivated as a descendant of Norway. We have the Norwegian peace prize Nobel and the Lord made me an instrument of peace. So when I go someplace, I really hope I can be that kind of ambassador, an instrument of peace. And I believe that’s what Ukraine is ultimately doing – it’s not only fighting for independence but for the peace and well-being of all of us in the world. If Ukraine is successful, we will all be blessed with the freedom and peace that they might bring to us. So I want to stand with them, and I believe very much in the cause.
Tell us about your help for Ukrainian veterans in Minneapolis with protests and all.
I had the great privilege of going into a top secret to the military here with the Ukrainian military. And I was so wonderfully blessed to be able to speak to them and meet with them and encourage them. I also was in Minneapolis when the wounded came to Minneapolis because we have a doctor that gave free prostheses for legs and arms. I met them there and they were so inspiring. The commander stood and proudly said, We in Ukraine are fighting for our freedom. But more than that, we are fighting for the sake of the freedom of all the world and peace for all people. He inspired me greatly, and so I was able to come to the military here, the Ukraine military, and visit with them and tell them how we are standing with them. And we really pray for that peace and that independence for all.
In Minneapolis, I heard that you will help not only veterans but also all children who lost legs or arms.
Yes. Well, two things. One is that we in Minnesota know cold weather. And so when the appeal was for cold weather, clothing for children here was a very easy thing to do. So I brought cold weather things. Other, along with the military that was wounded, I met two children that also received assistance. One was a girl, I think she might have been 15 or 16 years old and she had lost a leg. And the doctor there gave her a free new prosthetic leg. And she was there in the wheelchair when the military men came. The most moving story to me was the doctor who had brought in a nine-year-old boy that boy was receiving an arm and he lost that arm in the embrace of his father, who held him to try to keep him safe and held his brother on his side. Two bombs blasted. One killed the older brother and the other killed the father holding the boy. And as it killed the father, it took off the arm of the nine-year-old boy. He is in Minnesota. They have given him a home as well as a new arm. When I return to Minnesota, we’re going to have a big concert at a concert hall. And it’s to welcome the stranger, welcome the guest for us. And the entire concert hall, I think it’s 1200 people. We plan on having half of that audience be our guests. And they are refugees from different places in the world, but primarily Ukraine. And we want to have those soldiers and those children, especially the nine-year-old, be our guest and then we will all stand and welcome them to be with us.
And there are a lot of terrible stories. You met Ukrainian soldiers and also US soldiers. What are your predictions about the war?
I am greatly privileged and very moved by the Ukrainian soldiers I met. I believe that they will be successful because of the spirit that is within them. They are working with many times inferior weapons, old rifles, old guns. But that does not dissuade them. They are resolved. And in some way historically, it reminds us of our first revolution for independence. We were inferior. We did not have good weapons. We did not have a good military. But we had a spirit that said, we will make this. We will do it and will overcome any odds to make it. And I experience that in those young men, the two commanders that I met. They could have been my grandsons. They are very young, but they are very mature and very wise. I found a strength in them, both for Ukraine, but also in their faith. They believe that God is with them in this and that they will be able to overcome even the great odds against them. And there are great odds. That’s true. I saw a T-shirt that I thought was a very comical but good representative was a tractor of a farmer pulling a Russian tank. And I thought, now there’s the spirit that will win the war. That tank has been pulled away. That powerful weapon by a farmer with a tractor. And it’s comical, but it says the kind of spirit that I experienced with these men. The base was destroyed. And they’re out in the woods. They’re hiding out in the woods, in their tents. And that’s where they do their training. And they know that’s where they’ll be when they go for the fight. They will be out in the woods. So they’re dedicated to being there. And I found a great spirit with them. It was wonderful. It was a great privilege to be able to speak to them. I was as honored as I’ve ever been to be with the military. And I’ve been in some big places like the Air Force Academy in the Pentagon. I’ve never been more honored to be with these men than I was with them. They were just tremendous.
In the Second World War, Poland was against Germany and was alone despite French and British assurance. Now we have some rotational presence of U.S. forces in Poland. You met them. Would America fight for Poland in the case of Russia’s attack? Many Poles face this question.
That’s a bigger question that I could answer because there’ll be others that will answer it. There’s one personal story that I want to say first. One of the soldiers came to me and he gave me this bracelet. He said This was made by my children. Would you please take it and keep them in your prayers? I was so humbled, but that’s the spirit. But to answer your question, I think the United States is in a very difficult place, because if they take on Russia, we may have a huge war, even World War Three. So we have to be very careful. But we stand with our friends. And Poland is our friend. I think that Ukraine is our friend. And we need to stand with them. And Ukraine and Poland now represent where we need to stand so we prevent the terrible kind of outcome of World War Two. We did not stand early on with each country and they all fell one at a time. We need to unite now, I believe. And I hope we do. And make sure we stop it now. Otherwise, Belarus. Who knows what would be next? And maybe even Poland. But I would never want that to happen. And I don’t believe Poland would stand alone. No, you are our friend, without a doubt. World War Two was a different time in history. And I’m very grateful to see the kind of unity that is taking place. Even with the Ukraine and Poland. They have been adversaries at times, but Poland has been very generous in receiving Ukraine by hundreds and thousands. And I think that’s unexpected. But it’s really good. And now I think there’s a unity between them. That’s a bond that’s new and good. I hope that that bond happens throughout all the nations involved, including the United States.
And finally, how do you encourage people to keep on helping Ukraine, to give humanitarian aid? This war has already lasted for half a year and people are tired.
One of the reasons I came is that it is easy to kind of forget when we are at such a distance in the United States. It might not be in the news as much. So we could begin to forget. I hope to not let us forget. And I will bring my stories back to keep alive the aid and the help that I hope we will continue to be. I think it makes us a better country when we are showing compassion. I am very concerned when we are selfish as a country. We are wealthy. We are powerful. But if we don’t extend it with compassion, I am very troubled when the United States does not show compassion. And I believe we are right now. And I don’t want it to stop. So my voice will be and my hope will be that I can bring stories that will inspire us to continue to be the best America that we can be. I am troubled that we are sometimes not. And my voice will always be that we will be compassionate. Our strength is a sign of compassion, not just arrogance and strength, but we will use our strength wisely. So that’s my hope, my prayer. And it will be my speech. It will be wherever I go. That’s what I will say. I will wear the Ukrainian shirt I have and I will wear it in my heart. I will wear this so people will hear from me. I was on the news media before I left and I don’t know if I will when I get back, but if I have an opportunity, they will hear that message from me that we need to stand with Ukraine and with Poland. The goodness that is happening, we need to continue. The Polish people are compassionate now. I hope we always remain this way, that we can unite in a way we’ve never united. This is an opportunity for the world to be different and better, I believe.
I hope so. Sir, thank you very much for this interview, for your service here, and for your coming to Poland. Philip Blom – military chaplain and teacher at the United States Air Force Academy was our guest. Thank you very much.
You’re very welcome. I’m greatly honored and privileged. I would say thanks be to God for this ministry, for me, because God is our refuge and our strength. This has been a refuge for me. I am very tired. And to come here and get rest has been such a great, great blessing for me. So thank you.
The interview with Pastor Blom was commented on by Pastor Paweł Chojecki, head of Against the Tide TV:
“This is the real America! […] For me, the most important thing was what [Pastor Lieutenant Colonel Blom] was saying about the mental, and spiritual basis of the U.S. Army. […] The first rule is “integrity”. When Americans say “a man of integrity,” they mean a man transformed by Jesus Christ, a man of righteous character who is consistent with God’s code of values in all areas of life. […] American life is still connected to the message of Jesus Christ.
This is why we show that they are a Christian and very much blessed nation that understands its mission – that America must be strong not only militarily, but must be strong in spirit. This strength of spirit will be expressed in compassion, in sacrificing oneself for others.”