Stained glass from the National Cathedral (Wikipedia)
There is a group of men and women who rarely get the attention they merit – the military chaplains. The Army’s new Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver says, “I feel that one of the things we can do as chaplains for our Soldiers and families is to remind them that regardless of what they’re going through, wherever they are, God is there with them and prepared to carry them through any situation they’ll face. That is why chaplains are here, to remind them that they’re not alone (army.mil).”
The Air Force and Navy have chaplains too. Navy chaplains provide religious services not only for the Navy, but for the Marine Corps and Coast Guard as well. (Of the 860 Navy chaplains, 200 serve with the Marine Corps and 40 with the Coast Guard. (Navy Newsstand))
If you ever visit the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., take the hour-long self-guided audio tour. You’ll hear the story of “The Four Chaplains.” The four men were among the 900 troops being transported to Greenland in 1943 aboard the transport ship DORCHESTER, when it was hit by torpedos and began to take on water. The ship sank in less than 20 minutes (fourchaplains.org). The four Chaplains – a catholic priest, a jewish rabbi, and two protestant ministers – calmed the men as the abandon ship orders rang out. Then, realizing there were not enough life jackets for everyone, the four men gave their own jackets to other men. “As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains–arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers (fourchaplains.org).”
We often talk about the American spirit, but rarely about the American soul. Both are essential ingredients to the intangible qualities that make us Americans. The chaplains boost our spirits, and nourish our souls. They are our heroes of the week.