Author Archives: Daryl Densford

“Tell it to the Chaplain!”

It’s news in this man’s Army when corporal tells chaplain to keep his chin up

by Corporal Grant Robbins1

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“Look,” said the first sergeant. “Why don’t you just tell it to the chaplain?”

I had gone into the orderly room because my name was not on a new rating list. My sad story has such a long background of pyramided woes that I shall not go into it more than to say that only a good heart-to-heart talk with someone would straighten me out.

The following day I stood before the chaplain dressed neatly in patched fatigues to give the impression of a poor but honest home-spun GI.

“What have they done to you now?” asked the chaplain. “And kindly make it short.”

I sat down and let him have it straight. When the torrent had subsided, I sat back and searched the face of the chaplain for a reaction. He gazed at his feet and shook his head slowly.

“I just can’t understand the Army,” he said. “Now take me for example. You may think that I am doing pretty well, but I’ll tell you appearances are deceiving. After five country churches with an average salary of ten dollars a week, I finally get settled in a good town with a good congregation. And then, of course, I leave it to become a chaplain. Where do they put me? Out on a sand-blown camp in the desert, with a tent to preach in and a bunch of tank men who have no more inclination toward religion than Hottentots. Then the wind blows the tent away.”

I said that that was too bad.

“That was only the beginning,” he continued. “Shortly after I experienced a slight success in bringing some boys into the fold, they put another chaplain over me.”

He went on and on from one misfortune to another, and as his story developed one could easily see that he and Fate were at odds. Tears trickled down his cheeks and splashed off the bars on his collar.

Since passes were issued now only on Sundays his congregation had suffered a heart-breaking drop in attendance. And he had been ousted from his warm office to make room for the Red Cross. When he protested, he was mistaken for a mess officer and installed in a cubbyhole just off the mess kitchen, where from 0600 to 2100 came a heavy odor of frying Spam.

“And to top it all,” he said, “I have not received a promotion in eighteen months.”

I couldn’t stand it any longer. I reached across, patted him on the shoulder and said: “Keep your chin up, sir. I’m sure things will work out in the long run.”

He smiled miserably and thanked me. I tiptoed quietly out the door, leaving him in his grief.

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1 “Tell it to the Chaplain,” CORONET magazine, September 1945, pg. 68. (Excerpted from the book The Best from Yank, the Army Weekly, published at $3.50 by E. P. Dulton & Co., Inc., New York, N. Y.; copyright, 1945, by Franklin S. Forsberg.)

On this day in Chaplain Corps History

On 23 May 1951 Chaplain Emil Kapaun died as a Prisoner of War during the Korean War. Today, we remember him and his ministry to the Soldiers of his unit and fellow POWs whom he served unselfishly.

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Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee

The first episode (following the pilot) of Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee has been released. In this first official episode, we visit a World War 2-era chapel that has a high altar beautifully crafted by POWs housed at Fort Rucker, Alabama during the war, and we talk to Chaplain Thomas Dyer who began his chaplain career as the first Buddhist chaplain in the Army, taking an interesting spiritual journey back to his Christian roots.

You can watch the full episode here, on our YouTube channel.

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Why Do I Want to be an Army Chaplain?

When a minister applies to be a chaplain in the Army, they are asked to submit a statement about why they want to be a chaplain. Going through my old files, I came across the statement that I wrote nearly 20 years ago as I was applying to become an Army chaplain. For me, it still holds true today, perhaps even more so.

In the face of the challenges in our nation today, the Army soldier is asked to do his or her duty to defend the Constitution of the United States with honor, integrity and selfless service while facing dangers on every side. Our young men and women in uniform give up the security of their familiar worshipping community to follow the call of their country to defend freedom.

These soldiers not only need the training that the Army gives them but also a presence that will give them moral and spiritual support as they face the potential risks of military service. While their spiritual leaders back home can give them some support, the Army Chaplain is uniquely qualified and equipped to be there for the soldiers when needed the most.

I feel called of God to represent Him and my Church as part of the Chaplain Corps. I believe that my experiences and education along with the additional training that the Army provides will combine to make me an effective Chaplain, working alongside those of other faith groups to serve our soldiers as they serve their country.

I want to be able to help those who have given up so much to be in uniform, to be a Chaplain who is ‘courageous in spirit and compassionate in service,’ continuing in the great tradition of the Chaplains who have gone before me, serving both God and country as a United States Army Chaplain.

Daryl W. Densford

24 January 2003

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Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee

It’s exciting to introduce the new Chaplain Kit series, “Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee.” In this pilot episode we talk to Chaplain (MAJ) Daryl Densford, one of the Ethics Instructors at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Chaplain Densford opens up about how it feels to be passed over for promotion and shares how his commitment to God’s call on his life was settled. He also tells us a bit about his website and DMin project.

As the pilot, this episode introduces the new The Chaplain Kit series, “Chaplains in Chapels Drinking Coffee.” Unabashedly inspired by Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” each episode will explore a different military chapel while visiting with a chaplain…drinking coffee. Unscripted and barely planned, the conversation could go anywhere-and often does.

Tune in to the premiere on Saturday, 1 May 2021, at 0900 EDT on our YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/xab3cm9v6_Q or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheChaplainKit/ .

Chaplain O’Callahan & the USS Franklin

On 19 March 1945 Japanese bombers attacked the U.S.S. Franklin off the coast of Japan. Chaplain Joseph Timothy O’Callahan’s actions on that day earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. This video uses narrative from the program “Profiles in Patriotism” from a vinyl record produced by the U.S. Navy Recruiting Service about 1968.

Moral Conflict & Courageous Leadership

A new independent training module has been added to The Chaplain Kit Education page! In “Moral Conflict & Courageous Leadership” Chaplain Bob Boettcher, ethicist at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, helps chaplains better understand morality in the context of leadership. This training was presented at Fort Rucker, 11 February 2021, for the 110th Aviation Brigade Unit Ministry Teams.

Click here to go to the training page where you’ll find the video, presentation slides and lesson plans.

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Today’s Technology Builds on Early Chaplain Media Pioneers

Chaplain (MAJ) Daryl Densford live streams a Catholic Mass at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, 22 March 2020

In our current COVID-19 situation, many chaplains have developed further in the use of alternative media to continue to provide religious support to the service members, civilians and family members to whom they minister. We have seen increased skill and creativity as chaplains and their enlisted assistants have learned and grown in their expertise. The use of alternative media isn’t new to the respective Chaplain Corps, however. In the early 1950’s, for example, the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Slocum, NY, video recorded sermons for student development, cadre used closed-circuit television to increase their training reach and chaplain’s assistants were taught the use of audio-visual equipment. Chaplains are miles ahead of where they were 50 years ago, but still owe to their predecessors thanks for the foundation on which they now build to continue to serve and minister to those who depend on them.

Below are examples of how the Army Chaplain School used the technology of their day for training and preparing chaplains and their assistants in 1952.

This “picture shows a group of chaplain students in the course in Speech Techniques watching as an instructor briefs them for a laboratory exercise. Presently, each of them will give an assigned ‘speech’ before the camera. By this means, the student will have an opportunity to watch himself on a television receiver which is at the rear of his audience. Thus, while his voice is being recorded, he will be able to see himself ‘as others see him.'”1

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“As with the chaplains, the occasion sometimes arises when it becomes desirable to receive instruction by way of closed circuit television system which originates in the studio to present the same lesson to several classrooms at once. The Chaplain School, a pioneer in this kind of teaching by closed circuit television, has worked with other educational agencies, military and civilian to develop effective techniques for this new adaptation of the television medium.”2

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“The chaplain’s enlisted assistant is his ‘right hand man’ in garrison and in combat.” At the U.S. Army Chaplain School they take “…special courses in audiovisuals and motion picture projection [to] make it possible for them to increase their value as assistants to army chaplains.”3

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“The Chaplain School,” Fort Slocum, NY: U.S. Army Chaplain School, 1952, pg 4.

Ibid., pg 12.

Ibid., pg 11.

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Remembering Chaplain Downey on the Anniversary of Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Chaplain William B. Downey, 509th Composite Bomb Group

Many chaplains find themselves in the middle of history in the making, some of them making that history. Army Air Corps  Chaplain William B. Downey, of the 509th Composite Bomb Group, was there when history was being made. According to Downey in a 1987 interview, “one of the security officers told me a little time before, there was going to be a really fantastic new thing, only one of the greatest things that ever happened in the history of the world.”In the midst of this “greatest thing,” Chaplain Downey was there bringing God to the crews of the Enola Gay and Bockscar who would drop the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945.

Read 186 more words and hear Chaplain Downey pray with the crew of the Enola Gay here…

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The Chaplain Corps’ Birthday

In 2001, Chaplain (MG) Gaylord T. Gunhus, then Army Chief of Chaplains,  wrote this letter to chaplains and chaplain assistants, about the Chaplain Corps’ birthday on 29 July:

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The Chaplain Corps’ Birthday

by Chaplain (MG) G.T. Gunhus, Chief of Chaplains

“We have come a long way since the Continental Congress officially established in 1775 the position of chaplain in the Continental Army. The stipend of $33 per month was established for the chaplains, an amount equal to the pay of a captain.

“During the Revolutionary War the Chaplaincy was a representation of the nation’s religious denominations: 90 Congregationalists, 41 Presbyterians, 20 Anglicans, 11 Baptists, two Lutherans and one Roman Catholic. Since that time, we have ministered to the soldiers and family members of the U.S. Army in war and peace. Our numbers have varied fro a very few in the 1800’s to a high of 8,117 chaplains in World War II.

“It wasn’t until 1914 that chaplains wore the official uniform of an Army officer. The original insignia, a shepherd’s crook, signified the pastoral role of the chaplain. The chaplain’s crook was replaced by a Latin Cross on May 31, 1898. It was authorized for use by all Protestant and Catholic Chaplains. During World War 1, when a large number of Jewish rabbis served in the Army, the Tablets of the Law, with the Star of David, was authorized for them. Those two insignia and the crescent surmounted with a star, the insignia for the Muslim chaplain, are the insignia which identify all of us today.

“Since the beginning of World War II, chaplains have been required to minister in combat unarmed. The signing of the Geneva Convention entitled chaplains to a noncombatant role and protected person status. However, of the 33 chaplains interned by the Japanese in the Philippines, 18 died and many of the survivors were beaten for attempting to invoke the Geneva Convention in an effort to minister to their soldiers. Also, during World War II, 124 chaplains were killed in action, in Korea 13 lost their lives, and 13 were killed in Vietnam.

“Connected to the heritage of the Army Chaplaincy is its history of creative ministry and appropriate pastoral care. The Army is a better institution in which to serve because the Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs) have continually delivered the message of hope and made practical applications to that message. The UMTs’ loan closets and the chaplains’ multifaceted counseling have become institutionalized in what is now known as Army Community Services. When commanders were troubled by problems of racism, rights of individuals, and drug and alcohol abuse, chaplains responded with programs that are now known as Equal Opportunity, Total Army Quality, and the Army Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Program. Today our Chaplain Family Life Centers set the pace for the Army Family Support Activities.

“The Army Chaplaincy is facing new challenges: reduced force, numerous deployments, reduced resources and the impact of those factors on the quality of life for the soldier and family members. As we celebrate the 226th Anniversary of the Army Chaplaincy, may we renew our call to the service of the Lord. May our pastoral care and ministry renew the spirit and soul of our soldiers and family members. May we bring hope and strength to all of those we serve. This is my prayer for you, for all the Army Chaplaincy and the people we serve.

“GOD BLESS YOU AND HAVE A GREAT DAY!”

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From a letter to Lutheran chaplains from Chaplain Stake dated 19 August 2001, from the personal chaplain papers of Chaplain Paul Howe (TCK Archives).

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