December 1, 2014
The Rev. Al Bitz, a retired priest from the Fargo diocese, has been honored by the North Dakota Highway Patrol for his service as a chaplain for their agency.
Bitz received the agency’s Colonel’s Award for Excellence. Chaplains are available to assist officers in dealing with stressful situations such as vehicle crashes resulting in injuries or fatalities.
He was nominated by Patrol Sgt. Tom Herzig, who wrote of Bitz in his nomination, “For the past 11 years, Father Al Bitz has been one of 15 chaplains with the Highway Patrol. Living in Jamestown, Father Bitz has been an important part of the Patrol’s southeast region. During this time he has been available on a moment’s notice to meet the needs and challenges of the agency and the citizens of North Dakota. His trustworthy presence provided guidance, resources, and counseling to others.”
Officers of the Highway Patrol recently presented Bitz with a plaque and appreciation letter.
“They approached me years ago, and I knew the Highway Patrol needed support. I was there to help folks who had suffered a tragedy,” Bitz said. “I was also called upon for member of the public involved and family members of those killed in accidents.”
The nomination went on to state, “When an officer investigates a serious injury or fatal crash scene, it can be one of the most stressful and trying duties the officer will perform during his or her career. Having a chaplain at the crash, the hospital, or home to help relieve the family during the stressful time is very helpful to the officer. This allows the officer to remain focused on the task at hand – securing the scene, caring for the injured, and investigating the crash. Once the dust has settled, the scene is clear, the flashing lights are off and the investigation is complete, having a chaplain available for the officer to vent their stress is helpful as well.”
There were some memorable times during Bitz’s service as chaplain, but a few stand out in his mind, most notably when he was asked to visit with family members of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Bitz retired in June from St. James Basilica in Jamestown. He is now part of the University of Mary’s Mission Advancement Department in Bismarck.