By Jessica Hall, Northwest GuardianFebruary 10, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Over a hearty breakfast of eggs, potatoes, bacon and French toast, about 400 Joint Base Lewis-McChord servicemembers, civilian employees and retirees, came together to pray at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 1 at the McChord Collocated Club. For the third year in a row, the Air Force and Army have jointly hosted the annual JBLM breakfast.
"We're all diverse and here we are in a joint base where we do things together; what better way to bring people together than Almighty God?" said Chaplain (Col.) Gary Studniewski, JBLM chaplain and master of ceremonies for the breakfast. "Our dependence on God is something that we can all share. Whatever we can do to build unity, isn't that exactly what a joint base is about?"
Captain Vanessa Balint, 446th Force Support Squadron, said she appreciated that the breakfast included two branches of service.
"It's a time to recognize once a year that faith brings us all together," she said.
The Most Reverend J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle, was the guest speaker, chosen by the JBLM Chaplain's Office because of his eloquence and devotion to prayer.
"It's a great honor to be here," Sartain said. "It's a way to show my support to the (servicemembers) and their families."
In his address, Sartain discussed his own connection to prayer through his father's Navy service in World War II and his worn Soldiers' and Sailors' Prayer Book, which Sartain keeps in his personal chapel at home but brought with him to the breakfast.
"It is of course a keepsake from my dad but secondly, it says to me that the years that my dad was in the second world war were also formative years in his relationship with God. This book was used because with this book he learned to pray," Sartain said.
Sartain's speech discussed why prayer is important and how prayer as a conversation keeps people connected to God.
"Because God speaks to us in silence, He speaks to us deep within us and it's way down in there, where God speaks and touches our hearts, that he changes us. He changes our motivation, He deepens our love, He gives us peace, He enables us to make it through the tough times," Sartain said.
The breakfast was designed to speak to Soldiers regardless of their faiths or backgrounds, and to focus on prayers. Chaplains and servicemembers from across JBLM delivered prayers for the nation, armed forces and world peace, along with an Old Testament Psalm read in Hebrew and English.
Staff Sergeant Orlando Rodriguez, 508th Military Police Battalion, came to the event because he knew it would be a great way to start his day.
"I enjoy fellowship with other believers. Starting the day here, I know it's going to be a good day," Rodriguez said.
The theme of unity through prayer was common among those attending the annual breakfast.
"This is a reminder once a year for our community to come together e pluribus unum and realize that we have this common core," Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Steven George said. "The hope is that once we come together, we realize that we have more in common that we may not have realized."