The Fort Belvoir Garrison staff and tenant organization members focused on "Praying for America" during Belvoir's annual Installation Prayer Breakfast at the Officers Club May 2.
Chaplains (Maj.) Kristi Pappas and (Col.) Phillip Hill touched on this theme by reading quotes from Benjamin Franklin at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech.
Franklin asked his fellow delegates at the convention, "Have they not forgotten how they prayed for God's grace during the early stages of the revolutionary war?"
"We have daily prayer in this room during the early battles of the Revolutionary War and our prayers were heard and graciously answered," Hill quoted Franklin saying to the other delegates. "To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity to consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity."
Roosevelt's speech was delivered during his State of the Union address on Jan. 6, 1941. Roosevelt stated that the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear are the four freedoms people everywhere in the world should enjoy.
But, the biggest message given during the prayer breakfast came from the guest speaker Jim Stovall, author of The Ultimate Gift and The Ultimate Life, and the founder and president of the Emmy Award winning Narrative Television Network.
Stovall, blind for 20 years, talked about how having vision is more important than having sight and everyone can exercise the right to make a quality decision to change their lives by changing their minds.
"You are one quality decision away from changing your life," said Stovall. "When it comes to the big dream, the answer is always 'Yes, you can.'"
Stovall also said the reason people fail in life is because they carry too much garbage with them and they give up on their dreams too easily.
"We always live up to the expectations we have of ourselves, or those expectations that we allow other people to place upon us," said Stovall.
Stovall's words were simple, yet profound. He received a standing ovation after he concluded his speech.
"I was really inspired," said Chaplain (Maj.) Byron Bridges, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education. "I feel like I was supposed to be here to hear this."
Stovall's speech influenced Bridges to reflect on the beauty of life and what a gift life truly is. Bridges said he was looking out the window at the trees surrounding the Officers Club and the Potomac River when Stovall revealed he is blind.
"I was amazed," said Bridges of his reaction to learning of Stovall's blindness.
Stovall also mentioned there is no insignificant person, day or relationship in one's life, words that caused Bridges to think of the Soldiers he has met during his time in the Army.
"I value relationships," said Bridges. "So, when he said that, it makes me reflect and think about how important it is to love people, understand people and know people."
Stovall's comment that sight pales in comparison to vision is especially poignant to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James King. King feels Stovall's words are especially appropriate for the servicemembers and Department of Defense civilians here at Fort Belvoir, since the nation is in a time of transition through the reduction in force structure.
"Stovall shared with us some ways we can we can make a difference in our lives no matter what the challenges are," said King. "Our nation has always been a nation of vision. I think that vision still exists, so this is an encouragement for us as a people to continue moving forward. Whatever the challenges are that exist in our nation, this is a reminder to us that we can keep going forward and continue with passion to pursue our dreams."
Stovall's remarks are also encouraging for Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, Col. Gregory D. Gadson. Gadson felt Stovall did a phenomenal job of illustrating the power of faith, belief, will and choice.
"I got a chance to learn from someone who's had much more experience than I have," said Gadson. "I believe we can always learn in life, and not just from people who are older than you. You can learn from anyone if your heart and mind are open."
Gadson said it's important the Army keeps a vision during the force structure reduction because the armed forces vision has always been to meet the needs of our nation and those who serve our country.
Gadson also takes to heart Stovall's comment that there is no insignificant person, day or relationship in one's life.
"Our army is great because everyone matters," said Gadson. "It's built to take blows and sustain and keep going. Any team that's successful, everybody's contribution matters -- and that's important."