By Mr. Derek Gean (Fort Leonard Wood)July 14, 2016
Friday was a day of celebration for Fort Leonard Wood chaplains, their assistants and members of the religious community, as they gathered to commemorate the 241st anniversary of the chaplaincy at Daugherty Bowling Center.
"We are one of the oldest branches in the Army," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Doyle Coffman, deputy installation chaplain. "That is kind of unique, since we are one of the smallest branches."
The day was a light-hearted celebration of what many consider a tough job.
Pfc. Alfred Tarrant III, U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood garrison, the youngest chaplain's assistant on post, read a brief history of the chaplaincy, which began July 29, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized one chaplain for each regiment.
"Approximately 25,000 have served as spiritual leaders for more than 25 million Soldiers," Tarrant said.
"Chaplains have served in more than 270 wars and combat engagements. More than 300 chaplains and chaplain's assistants have laid down their lives in battle over the past 241 years. Seven chaplains and one chaplain's assistant have been awarded the Medal of Honor," he said.
Chaplain (Col.) Michael Thomas, installation chaplain, addressed the post's chaplains about their calling.
"I love being a chaplain. It's a good life, it's a good calling," Thomas said.
He said answering the call to serve in the chaplaincy may not work out like one expects.
"But during that journey, it has shaped us, it has challenged us, it carved some off of us and put other stuff on us. It's a shaping process," Thomas said as he explained what "calling means to him."
"Calling is me keeping God and God keeping me. God is always faithful," he continued.
"So help me God" is one of the things everyone has said in their oaths, Thomas said.
"In essence, when we do that … we are putting God's name on the line and saying I am going to keep this promise," he said.
Through all the memorial ceremonies, deployments and rigors of the calling, Thomas encouraged Soldiers to keep focused on why they serve.
"The eternal destiny of Soldiers, their souls, rests with us. Their destiny may be dependent on your faithfulness to answer your call and to remain faithful to your call. Your obedience to your oath of promise that you swear you would uphold 'so help me God,'" Thomas said.
Although serving can be hard, Thomas encouraged the Soldiers to not lose site of why they serve.
"It was never about me, it's not about you," Thomas said. "It's about their sacrifices. It's those young men and women who lie silent in cemeteries all over American and on foreign grounds on places only God knows where they are resting … those who suffer in rehabilitation clinics and amputee wards and those terribly wounded in mind and spirit. Brothers and sisters, our call is about them. We are called to care for them, nurture them and honor them," Thomas concluded.
Following Thomas's comments, the chaplains held an official cake-cutting ceremony, had refreshments and spent the afternoon bowling.