By Andy Massanet, Fort Riley Public AffairsAugust 3, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- The 242nd Chaplain Corps Anniversary Celebration July 28 at Moon Lake featured chaplains and staff from the Religious Support Office as well as some from 1st Infantry Division units.
The Fort Riley event was part of celebrations across the Army, including one at Arlington National Cemetery, where chaplains gathered to hear the keynote speaker Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Paul K. Hurley, the 24th Chief of Chaplains for the United States Army, and guest speaker retired Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Matthew A. Zimmerman Jr., the 18th Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army.
The theme of this year's celebration is "Chaplains Corps identity."
Closer to home, the Fort Riley event was less formal and featured a brief talk by Chap. (Col.) Timothy Walls, senior chaplain at Fort Riley, a ceremonial cake-cutting, lunch and games for adults and kids alike.
Also, recognition of a sort went to both the youngest and most senior of the RSO's personnel. Chap. (Maj.) Anthony Kazarnowicz is 67 years young and is the oldest member of the RSO staff, while Pvt. Cindy Romero clocks in at age 20. The pair cut the ceremonial cake.
Yet with the fun came a sense of pride as those in attendance reflected on the rich traditions of the Chaplain Corps since its infancy in 1775.
"I think it's the most rewarding job in the Army," said Staff Sgt. Bert Ashton, garrison noncommissioned officer in charge of operations of the RSO, and a native of Brooklyn, New York. "We are not out front but we are right there in a very critical support role. And every situation is different. I love my job and I would not do any other job in the Army."
According to the official website of the U. S. Army Chaplains, the Continental Congress established chaplains as an integral part of the Continental Army July 29, 1775.
Over the years, more than 25,000 chaplains have served in the Army as religious leaders and today more than 2,700 chaplains serve the Army representing 140 different religious organizations.
Army chaplains have served in all of America's major wars and combat engagements from the colonial era through the present day and nearly 300 Army chaplains have laid down their lives in the line of duty.
"We follow a great legacy of men and women chaplains who have served with honor," said Chap. (Capt.) Ronnie Irwin, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and a native of Brookhaven, Mississippi. "We have served with distinction in bringing God to Soldiers and representing faith to the sons and daughters of America. It's an honor and a privilege to serve as a Chaplain. We take our jobs very seriously and we want to do our best in giving the best religious support possible to our Soldiers."
In providing that support, seven members of the Chaplain Corps have received the Medal of Honor, including Chap. (Capt.) Emil Kapaun. Captured during the Battle of Unsan Nov. 2, 1950, the Pilsen, Kansas, native died in a North Korean prison camp while helping his fellow POWs survive. The Kapaun Chapel at Fort Riley is named after him.