FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - "We wanted to bring people together who love animals," said Chaplain (Capt.) John Brocato, about the Blessing of the Pets service, held Oct. 4 at the Southern Lights Chapel.

The Blessing of the Pets is usually held on or about the feast day (Oct. 4) for St. Francis of Assisi in Catholic parishes around the world. This custom is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi's love for all creatures, according to

Amber Rozen, wife of Spc. Russell Rozen, 539th Transportation Company, heard about the pet blessing from a neighbor. "I thought it would be kind of cool to come out and get my dogs blessed," she said. She brought her dogs Bongo, a boxer mix, and Dexter, a six-month-old mastiff.

Erin Turner, the wife of Sgt Eddie Turner, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, brought her black lab mix Ella out after hearing about the event from Brocato. It was the first time she had been to a ceremony of that type, but was happy she came.

Although Heidi Livengood has lived in Fairbanks since 1986, it is the first time she and her family have brought pets out to be blessed. She and her children brought their Great Pyrenees Beauregard and one of their cats to the service.

Chaplain (Capt.) John Brocato, troop support chaplain for Fort Wainwright and the Catholic priest for the installation said he hopes to make the event an annual one.

"It's going to get bigger and better," he said. "We are hoping to have more of the community programs when we do it next year. The vet clinic came out which is really nice and they have some services they are going to offer next year."

It will be a good opportunity to connect with others, even those who don't have faith will be welcome to have their pets blessed, he said.