By Sgt. 1st Class John S. Wollaston, U.S. Army NATO Brigade February 15, 2013
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Soldiers at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the National Prayer Breakfast this year at Vogelweh's Armstrong Club.
U.S. units in the Kaiserslautern Military Community regularly hold such events in early February. Guest speaker for this year's Army event, held with support from Sembach-based U.S. Army NATO Brigade, was Chaplain (Col.) Christopher Wisdom, chaplain for Installation Management Command, Europe.
Wisdom recalled how 70 years ago the troop ship USS Dorchester was sunk. Four U.S. Army chaplains gave away their life preservers to others and died with their arms linked in prayer as the ship sank.
"These are the kinds of people we gather to celebrate today," Chaplain Wisdom said. "They were praying people."
In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the first event -- what would become known by 1970 as the National Prayer Breakfast. Since then, national state and municipal organizations hold breakfasts, designed as forums for political, social, and business leaders to gather together.
During his talk, Wisdom asked the crowd, "Is praying as necessary the breath of life to you? Or is it something that only comes hard and in hard times?"
Wisdom spoke of 1st Lt. Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner whose B-24 Liberator was shot down in 1943, over the Pacific. He survived the crash and a Japanese prison camp, where he was beaten daily. After World War II, Zamperini returned to Japan to forgive his former captors. In 1988, before the Winter Olympics, he carried the Olympic torch past Nagano, where he was imprisoned.
Zamperini credited prayers, his own and his mother's, for his safe return and for getting him through very dark and troubling times, when everyone else had given him up for dead, Wisdom said.
"What he found out, what his mother found out, is that prayer can strengthen you, prayer can assist you and prayer can help you," Wisdom said.
Faith and prayer can also help Soldiers maintain Army values and find strength in adverse conditions.
"The time comes, as it has for many of us, when selfless service must give way to personal courage and loyalty." Wisdom said. "You and I do not have the power to maintain those values perfectly, perpetually and permanently. We need prayer."