FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Author and historian David Barton shared American stories of faith, prayer and moral conviction during Fort Drum's National Prayer Luncheon last week at the Commons.

"As we gather here today at this prayer luncheon, (it's worth noting) this is not an unusual thing," Barton said April 14. "This is the character of who we have been as American people and an American military from the very beginning. It's why we've been blessed as a nation - we have acknowledged God."

Barton is the founder of WallBuilders, a national organization dedicated to publicizing "America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage."

He was named one of America's most influential Christians by Time magazine in 2005 for his constitutional and historical counsel to conservative groups as well as state and federal officials.
Barton traced America's religious heritage back to the First Continental Congress of 1774.

He said the Journals of Congress show that George Washington, Patrick Henry, John Adams and more than 50 others gathered in Philadelphia and opened with two hours of prayer before addressing the pressing issue of British oppression in the 13 colonies.

"That wasn't a dinky little prayer, was it'" Barton said. "We don't think of that today as we go through American history, but that's exactly how important faith was to these guys."
Barton said throughout the American Revolution, Adams and other founding members of the Continental Congress issued 15 calls for days of prayer and fasting.

He said in addition to being men of prayer and faith, many also possessed admirable courage and conviction. "They made political statements and then they went to take up arms to defend that political statement," he said.

The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence made an oath that they intended to keep and defend, he noted.

"They understood exactly what they were getting into and the solemnity of the moment; there was a willingness to sacrifice on their part.

"We certainly know that to be true today," he continued. "If you put on the uniform, you know that there's a willingness to sacrifice. You know what might happen as a result."

Apparently, George Washington said if citizens cut religion out of public life, he wouldn't let them call themselves patriots, Barton said.

"Prayer and morality, as Washington said 200 years ago, are indispensable supports. They are the foundation not only for private life and character but also for duty and service," he said.

Cathy Brown, wife of Capt. Timothy Brown of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (LI), said she also believes prayer and morality are fundamental American values.

"I think it's something that our nation has lost track of," she said.

Even so, Barton said he sees indications of strong morals and standards ingrained in today's American military tradition - in how personnel are taught to conduct themselves, for example.

"I see the American military culture as part of a real key to the stability of the nation, even in ways that people may not think of," he said.

Beyond morality and a commitment to duty, Barton said it is a devotion to prayer that has caused Americans to succeed.

"There's no question that faith has been the most important element of all," he said.