Chaplain Corps celebrates 236 years
August 4, 2011
The saying goes, if you haven’t experienced hardships in life, you haven’t lived long enough. Those who have can recall the person who helped them make it through rough times. For military chaplains, helping Soldiers get through some of life’s toughest challenges is an everyday mission which has continued for the past 236 years.
Chaplains from across the nation gathered at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., July 29, to reflect on the strength of the U.S. Army’s Chaplain’s Corps. The anniversary celebration consisted of a memorial wreath laying ceremony at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a luncheon.
In attendance was the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. Donald P. Rutherford, who said the biggest change in the corps today is the level of diversity.
“We’ve seen more Rabbis, we have Muslims, we have two Buddhist chaplains, and we also have a Hindu chaplain that just came in,” said Rutherford.
Rutherford, whose career spans more than 30 years, said his main priority as the corps chief is to ensure Soldiers have what they need to continue to grow spiritually and increase in their faith.
Chaplain (Cpt.) Brandon Denning, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), shares in Rutherford’s philosophy.
“I was interviewing to be a pastor at a church but realized I wanted to be on the frontlines of ministry” said Denning. “I wanted to be where Soldiers are. In the Army, I get to be a part of what the Soldiers are doing and help influence them on a spiritual level.”
Chaplain (Cpt.) Mark Worrell, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), also believes it’s important to be “boots on the ground” with Soldiers. Worrell said he enjoys meeting Soldiers on their turf by coming to them in places like the motor pool or out in the field.
During the luncheon, Dave Peters, a retired Army chaplain, paid homage to Chaplain (Maj.) Charles Watters, who continuously turned down stateside assignments in order to serve Soldiers on the frontlines. Watters lost his life while helping collect the dying and wounded, bringing them back to safety during the Vietnam War.
Peters recalled his own personal experiences with veterans from Vietnam and other wars like it.
“When I visit VA hospitals, they are filled with a lot of Vietnam veterans and Korean Veterans. It’s not unusual for that Vietnam vet or Korean vet to remember the time when his chaplain came out to visit him. When you are ministering day, after day, after day, you have no idea the impact that you’re making on a life of an individual,” said Peters.