WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 30, 2009) Aca,!" Army Chaplains, their assistants, families, friends and wounded warriors gathered at Arlington National Cemetery, July 26, to celebrate the 234th birthday of the Army Chaplain Corps and the centennial of the chaplain assistant.
Following a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver, Army chief of chaplains, led the crowd through the tree-lined streets of the cemetery to Chaplain's Hill.
At Chaplain's Hill, Carver introduced guest of honor George Weidensall, a former Army corporal who had served as a chaplain assistant in during the Korean War. Following the invocation and scripture reading, Carver gave a memorial address thanking the chaplains and chaplain assistants for their spiritual leadership, moral example and sacrificial service and love to Soldiers.
Carver said that for the last 100 years chaplain assistants had set the conditions for worship by setting up services for chaplains and by providing security while chaplains conducted those services. He said during the 100 year history of the Chaplain Corps, Army chaplains have received 27 Distinguished Service Crosses, and an array of Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars for Valor, and Combat Action Badges.
"It's humbling to stand here among these graves of our forefathers of military ministry," he said. "Each one of these chaplains and chaplain assistants had something in common: they walked in faith, they found courage in their calling and they encouraged others to greatness. Most of all, our chaplains and chaplain assistants have loved their fellow Soldiers and their fellow ministry teams more than their own lives."
Since the corps was created on July 29, 1775, more than 25,000 chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their families. Presently, the Army has 2,700 chaplains and an equal number of assistants across the active Army, Reserve and National Guard. More than 1,000 chaplains have been mobilized or deployed in support of contingency operations worldwide since 2003.
Present in more than 270 major combat engagements, 400 chaplains have died in combat going back to the Revolutionary War battles at Lexington, Concord Bridge and Bunker Hill. Gen. George Washington pushed for chaplains to be assigned to individual regiments and even ordered religious services to be performed at 11 a.m. every Sunday.
While three chaplains are known to have fought with muskets alongside the Soldiers they ministered to during the Revolutionary War, they have long since become noncombatants who depend upon their armed assistants for protection. In combat zones, chaplains handle the driving from unit to unit to perform services while their assistants serve as bodyguards.
Six chaplains have received the Medal of Honor, four from the Civil War and two from the Vietnam War. Calvin P. Titus, an Army musician who spent much time helping his unit's chaplain during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China could be considered the Army's first chaplain assistant. He received the country's highest military decoration, though the chaplain assistant program was not established until Dec. 28, 1909.