DIXON – It was during his service in the Vietnam War that Rev. Dr. Vincent Marrandino first knew he wanted to be a chaplain.
He was a psychiatric specialist then, a young man with an undergraduate degree in psychology and an interest in helping fellow humans through unimaginable pain and emotional turmoil.
Troops would be evacuated, and the soldiers would step out of the planes. They’d be separated into different groups – those in need of medical attention, psychiatric attention, the prisoners of war.
Depending on who was on the plane, he might switch gears a little bit and work with the medics, talking to men who had lost their legs or their arms.
“I kind of fell in love with doing that kind of work,” Marrandino said, sitting in the office of Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss. “And it was amazing how the ministry was so well correlated with psychiatry.”
Marrandino is the the new senior volunteer chaplain for the Dixon Police Department. He’ll head up what will eventually be a team of qualified chaplains who will work with department members, crime victims, their families, and witnesses to talk through what they’ve seen.
He’ll also provide on-call spiritual guidance, counseling, and critical stress debriefings for anyone who might need it.
Marrandino is also the full-time director of pastoral care at KSB Hospital, where he’s worked for the past 13 years, after having worked at Dixon Correctional Center for 12 years.
The program, the first of its kind for Dixon Police Department, was spearheaded by Officer Ryan Bivins.
“I saw it as a need,” Bivins said. “As officers we deal with a lot of stress and negative things day-to-day and, just to have someone who can be there to supports us and help talk to victims and take some of the weight off our shoulders ...
“When we were in Afghanistan, we had a chaplain, and that was a huge support for me. This job can change you very quickly if you’re not emotionally and mentally strong. I’m excited about this, about having this resource.”
Sterling and Rock Falls have had similar programs for 15 and 4 years, respectively, their chiefs said.
“Police are supposed to be tough and supposed to be macho,” Langloss said. “ ... But you internalize all that, all that becomes problematic. So, these debriefings and the facilitation done by people like Chaplain Marrandino help you get those things out of you, so they don’t eat you up, and then you learn coping mechanisms. ... At times in this profession, maybe you’re sad or you’re upset or you’re emotional and that makes you feel weak – you feel like you’re different from everybody else, but these debriefings show that you’re just like everybody else.
“Everybody is going through these things. ... It helps you to move past it.”