40 days and 40 nights. That is how long it took for the Stone Chapel to be re-opened. While that statement may seem like a biblical cliché, one cannot argue with facts. According to 2-20th FAR's Chaplain, CH (CPT) Choi, it was 40 days from the day he pulled open the doors for the first time to the day of the Grand Opening of the Thunder Spiritual Resiliency Center on 23 September. Now the refurbished Stone Chapel, located in the heart of 210th Fires Brigade's footprint, provides Thunder Soldiers with a much needed environment wherein they are able to nurture their spiritual well being.
When 2-20th FAR arrived to Camp Casey in late May, the Battalion leaders knew that one of the greatest challenges their Battalion would face was maintaining a strong, resilient spirit as they faced the months away from home and family.
"It's challenging at times to remember the importance of nurturing our spiritual and emotional sides," says CPL Czarnogursky, one of the Soldiers who proved indispensable in the restoration of the chapel. "The high operational tempos and time away from loved ones can accumulate to added stresses and anxieties, making us less effective in executing daily tasks."
With this understanding in mind Leaders sat down with CH Choi and shared a vision for a place that would allow soldiers to build Esprit de Corps and resiliency, a safe and comfortable "home away from home" to relax in and forget about their daily pressures.
"We wanted a place where Soldiers could come to rest, relax, and lay down their burdens with a common ground based in Faith," says CH Choi; the Stone Chapel, located suitably in the center of the Brigade's AO, proved to be a perfect opportunity to establish such an institution.
In the past the Stone Chapel served Camp Casey as a house of worship and a place to gather for ceremonies, memorials, celebrations and general fellowship. It was erected in memory of Chaplain (CPT) Wendell Forrest Byrd of the 13th Engineer BN, killed in action during the Korean War on the 27th of October 1951.
The building had begun to show its age compared to the other more modern chapels around Camp Casey -- it was due for a makeover. CH Choi, with a combined effort of excited KATUSAs, 2-20th FAR Soldiers, and the Korean Service Corps, revamped the building, inside and out. The KSC, in particular, was instrumental in building and painting the decor that adorn Thunder Spiritual Resiliency Center. Posted outside you see a vibrant red sign inviting you into the chapel where, as you walk in, two red and gold crossed-canons greet you in the foyer. Additionally, thanks to the support of the Garrison Chaplain's Office the resiliency center was able to purchase various instruments, 50 inch TVs, DVD players, games and more -- all for the use of 210th Fires BDE Soldiers.
At the rededication and Grand opening on 23 September, 210th Fires BDE and the 2nd Infantry "Warrior" DIV Chaplains expressed their hope that this resiliency center would support, grow, and nurture the Soldier's spiritual fitness, and maintain the Brigade's "Fight Tonight" readiness posture. So far the Stone Chapel seems to be living up to that expectation. Already Soldiers have taken the initiative to start a "Praise and Worship" team using the Chapel's instruments, and others can be found challenging each other on "Call of Duty". Country Music Night, Rock Night, and Movie Night are in the works, and there is even talk of having guitar and bass lessons.
CPL Czarnogursky has already eased her anxieties in the Thunder Spiritual Resiliency Center saying, "as a musician for 13 years, I've personally felt the benefits of using music to unwind, allowing me to gain mental and emotional clarity. I know this resiliency center will prove extremely beneficial to this Brigade and its warfighters."
As Soldiers continue to come to Camp Casey, Korea, whether as a PCS or on a rotation, they will embrace the new environment, the fast-paced operational tempo, and the distance and time change from home. But now they have a beacon of light in the Stone Chapel. The Thunder Spiritual Resiliency Center will prove an outlet, an escape and a place to bond for 210th Fires Brigade Soldiers in the years to come.