By Rachael Tolliver-IRAHC PAOMarch 13, 2019
A chapel decommissioning was held at Ireland Army Health Clinic March 13 in the chapel, located on the 2nd floor of the clinic, for the purpose of closing down the sanctuary and preparing to dismantle the room. When the new IRAHC is finished there will be no chapel in it, because, according to AR 165-1 chaplain services are linked to inpatients services. Without those services, the new IRAHC will have no chapel.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from the MEDCOM chaplaincy office, the Region Health Command Atlantic Chaplin, garrison chaplain office, IRAHC command team, unit chaplains across Fort Knox, and individuals who regularly attend bible study in the chapel.
During the decommissioning a deconsecration ceremony was conducted to remove the blessings previously bestowed on the chapel and sacred items within it. That part of the service was administered by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Celestene Robb, the deputy command chaplain for U.S. Army Medical Command.
According Robb, a deconsecration takes place when a religious building or area is no longer going to be used, in this case demolished, and any symbols of religious significance are removed. But she added that the religious items, such as the Pyx--which holds the holy oil--the crucifix, the alter bible, the baptismal font and the other items will all be used by other chapels on Fort Knox.
"So all of these (objects of worship), including these stained glass windows, are now deconsecrated and released from use as a place of religious support for the Fort Knox community," she said. "We further declare it is no longer a place of meeting for any and all religious support operations at Fort Knox and is made secular… This action is taken in accordance with applicable army regulation and the authority appointed to me as a U.S. Army Medical Command deputy command chaplain."
The ceremony was then dismissed with a blessing by Human Resource Command Chaplain (Lt. Col. ) Ralph Bieganek.
When Ireland Army Hospital was originally opened in 1957 the chapel was located on the basement floor, in room XBB-6B, at the junction of the old and new building connector hallway--outside of what today is the patient records window. But at that time, patient records was a post exchange, there was no connection doorway there, and the chapel space extended into what today is the "Fit For Duty" office. Also, at that time the brace shop, which had a leather shop in it, was located next to the chapel.
In 1976 the hospital broke new ground for an addition to the facility under the leadership of the hospital commander, Col. Bruno Eisen. When it was complete the door where FFD now stands--room XBB4--opened into what was the middle of the chapel area. And the chapel was eventually moved to the second floor in what was the medical library and staff conference area. But not without a new look--a large six panel stained glass window however, the origin of this window does not follow the typical Army acquisition process.
The creation of the windows are somewhat foggy--it is commonly believed a former Fort Knox MEDDAC commander with a talent for creating stained glass designed and built the work of art. But the Soldier for whom the glass is dedicated is less of a mystery.
The inscription in the bottom of the far left pane says, "In Memory of Pvt. John F. Bush 1946-1966." But until a recent genealogy search, very little else was known. The report showed that he was born in Chicago, Cook County Illinois, to Thelma Magnor and Charles F. Bush. We now also know that although the inscription says he was born in 1946, the genealogy report says he was actually born in 1947.
After a 2015 story entitled "Searching for clues to the hospital chapel's history" appeared in the Fort Knox post newspaper, The Gold Standard, an off-post resident shared an obituary for Bush that had previously been undiscovered. It seems he had been stationed at Fort Knox in late 1965 but became ill in early February 1966. Upon his admission to the hospital it was determined he had inoperable cancer. He passed April 5, 1966 and is buried in Mount Olive Cemetery located in Cook County, Illinois.
Matt Rector, a historic preservation specialist in the Fort Knox Environmental Management Division, said it's been a long time since any chapel on Fort Knox has been decommissioned.
"To my knowledge, there hasn't been a decommissioning of a chapel at Fort Knox within recent history," he explained. "The last chapels that might have been decommissioned were likely the wooden chapels constructed on post during WWII and those have long been gone."
Ireland Army Community Hospital transitioned to a clinic in 2016, and will relocate into a new facility in Jan., 2020. While there will be no chapel in the new facility, two of the panes from this window will be displayed in new clinic on a memorial wall along with other Ireland Health historical or significant times. As of this writing, the plans for the other four panes include putting them inside chapels located on Fort Knox.