By Sgt. Von Marie DonatoMay 22, 2019
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - "Chaplain, how much prayer is being done at Third Army?" These famous words were once spoken by former Gen. George S. Patton, late commander of Third Army, whose lineage carried into U.S. Army Central.
According to Lt. Col. Ron C. Powell, the historian for USARCENT, prayer played an important role during Patton's command at Third Army. "On the morning of Dec. 8 1944, Patton summoned the Third Army chaplain, then Col. (brigadier general retired) James H. O'Neill, to his headquarters at Caserne Molifor in Nancy, France," said Powell. "Patton was concerned about the poor weather. At that time allies had air superiority, but the poor weather gave the Germans the advantage. Patton asked O'Neill to write a prayer concerning the weather. O'Neill thought it was wise to add a Christmas message and Patton readily agreed. He immediately ordered 250,000 copies of the prayer and Christmas message to be printed for every Soldier in Third Army."
It was only after the circulation of thousands of "Patton's Prayers" that there seemed to be a divine intervention at play.
Powell said the German advances in the Battle of the Bulge were partly broken by good weather when the U.S. Army Air Corps was able to continue its air-to-ground support. Patton later congratulated O'Neill on a job well done.
Soldiers and civilians from USARCENT gathered together to attend the National Day of Prayer luncheon at their headquarters on Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, May 2.
Days of prayer have been called for since 1775, when the Continental Congress designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation. Since 1789, U.S. presidents have issued 147 national calls to prayer, humility, fasting and thanksgiving.
This observance was initially created by a U.S. Congress joint resolution and signed into law in April, 1952. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer.
The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning.
USARCENT hosted Chaplain (Col.) Jeffrey D. Hawkins as the guest speaker for the luncheon. Hawkins currently serves as the commandant for the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School located at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and is also the former command chaplain for USARCENT.
"I'm honored to simply be back in the building and join my prayers with "Patton's Own" on such a meaningful day," said Hawkins.
Hawkins said the National Day of Prayer shares common roots with the celebration of Thanksgiving.
"Both were national proclamations establishing a day of prayer, but in the New England Colonies under British rule, traditional observances in late fall called for prayer and thanksgiving, while observances in the spring or summer called for prayer and fasting," said Hawkins.
The observance is designed for broad participation by all Americans, regardless of faith or tradition with the purpose of praying for the nation.
"The National Day of Prayer is celebrated by Americans of many religions, including Christians of many denominations, both Protestants and Catholics, as well as Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, reflecting the diversity of the United States," said Hawkins. "On this day, many Americans assemble in front of courthouses, as well as in houses of worship, such as churches, mosques, synagogues and temples as they pray for the United States of America and its leaders."
During the luncheon, Soldiers came together to pray for the nation, the military and its families.
"We ask God to bless our nation as we pray for one another," said Chaplain (Col.) Joey T. Byrd, the command chaplain for USARCENT. "It has always been vitally important that we remember and pray for our nation's military service members. We remember in prayer all those deployed forward and at home station. We pray for the all the members of the Army, their Families and the wonderful civilians who make up this great Army."
U.S. Army Chaplains provide specialized religious support while skillfully advising commanders on morals, morale and religion while adding value to the Army and assisting their commanders' intent by nurturing the living, caring for the wounded, and honoring the dead, added Hawkins.
Hawkins said the Army recognizes spirituality as one of the four key pillars of resiliency, and Soldiers' practice of religion as a first amendment freedom. The Army today, as it has done historically, supports the nation's call to prayer for the common good.
The Army places a high value on Religious Accommodation and Soldiers' right to observe the tenets of their respective religions, or to observe no religion at all.
In the words of President Donald J. Trump, "Prayer sustains us and brings us comfort, hope, peace and strength. Therefore, we must cherish our spiritual foundation and uphold our legacy of faith."