How many pastors, priests, ministers or anyone in professional ministry do you know who can jump out of a Humvee, climb up into a Blackhawk, and perform baptismal religious rites for Soldiers and Marines in the mountains of Kosovo all in one day?
How many of the aforementioned even know what a Humvee, or a Blackhawk is for that matter, or even know where Kosovo is (geographical and geopolitically speaking)?
It’s quite the outrageous theological adventure – this Army Chaplain Corps. A corps comprised of chaplains and religious affairs specialists. Chaplains are officers who are God called ministers from civilian denominations and faith groups who are officially recognized as religious leaders. Serving alongside of our chaplains are the enlisted religious affairs specialists.
Forming a team, both are Soldiers serving Soldiers, families, and Army civilians within our formation. This religious support effort is reinforced in the garrison environment with the help of our directors of religious education, pastoral coordinators, and administrative assistants. All exist so that our commanders can ensure that our rank and file may express their constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.
Is this religious expression important in building resiliency, or is it simply out of date, with no relevance in making ready our Soldiers and their families for the hardships of war? This is the question. For we as Soldiers may one day lay on the field of battle, deaf and numb from the chaos, and see the face of our chaplain looking down upon us. This question is deeply rooted into our souls and is often choked by the fear of conformity and non-eternal existential philosophy and modernity that rules out the divine as a crutch for the weak and uneducated.
I say, “Huzzah!” to our founding fathers and the continental congress who on June 30, 1775, wrote the Articles of War that provided rules and guidelines of conduct for our birthing nation’s Army. Article II states, “It is earnestly recommended to all officers and Soldiers, diligently to attend divine service…” Twenty-nine days later on July 29, 1775, this same continental congress authorized “one chaplain for each regiment of the Continental Army, with pay equaling that of a captain.” I say, “Huzzah!” to our founding fathers who realized the value of faith in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.
Happy birthday Chaplain Corps! The outrageous theological adventure is now 244 years old. No one celebrates a birthday when they are dead. The Chaplain Corps is certainly alive! The Chaplain Corps serves where our Soldiers serve. The call to serve in the mud and the blood, under the shade of the tree of liberty, planted and watered by those who have gone before rings clear – nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen. For God and country.