There’s an old saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes” but any chaplain will tell you there are. Combat has a way of either solidifying one’s faith, pushing one toward faith, or unfortunately, damaging the faith a person deployed with. Nevertheless, chaplains exist to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen wherever they are (geographically and spiritually) and to provide for their religious expression in combat or at home station.
During World War Two, chaplains were just as active providing worship opportunities for Service Members deployed into harms way. An August 1944 two-page spread in Yank Magazine illustrates this well:
“…In God is our Trust”
“The nearer men get to the front, the less time they have for anything but fighting. All else goes by the board-except an intensified religious feeling, a feeling to which countless letters and dispatches written in foxholes have testified. And so, as is evident in these pictures from the battlefronts of the world, Yanks who can barely manage to spare a few moments to eat or sleep still manage to lay down their arms long enough to worship.”
Click here to continue reading this article with nine more pictures of worship on the front lines…
IN FLANDERS FIELDS POEM
The World’s Most Famous WAR MEMORIAL POEM
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
(Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium)
On May 2, 1915, John McCrae’s close friend and former student Alexis Helmer was killed by a German shell. That evening, in the absence of a Chaplain, John McCrae recited from memory a few passages from the Church of England’s “Order of the Burial of the Dead”. For security reasons Helmer’s burial in Essex Farm Cemetery was performed in complete darkness.
The next day, May 3, 1915, Sergeant-Major Cyril Allinson was delivering mail. McCrae was sitting at the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the YserCanal, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, Belgium.
As John McCrae was writing his In Flanders Fields poem, Allinson silently watched and later recalled, “His face was very tired but calm as he wrote. He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.”
Within moments, John McCrae had completed the “In Flanders Fields” poem and when he was done, without a word, McCrae took his mail and handed the poem to Allinson.
Allinson was deeply moved:
“The (Flanders Fields) poem was an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.”
Text used by Permission courtesy of www.flandersfieldsmusic.com
Photo of “No-man’s land” in the public domain
Photo of newspaper picture of Alexi Hannum Helmer, from the “McGill Honour Roll, 1914-1918”. McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, 1926, found at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, a website of the Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed 29 May 2017
Photo of LTC John McCrae, Guelph Museums, Reference No. M968.354.1.2x, in the public domain–
On this day (16 May) in 1863, Chaplain James Hill engaged the enemy and without injury or death captured three enemy pickets, which eventually earned him the Medal of Honor. Here’s the story:
1LT James Hill (21st Iowa Infantry) for capturing enemy pickets at the Battle of Champion Hill in May 1863 (at the time, he was serving as an infantry lieutenant – later he would become his regiment’s chaplain).
“In the waning hours of the battle, Lt. Hill was returning from a foraging mission through dense woods. He came upon three armed Confederate pickets. In his words:
“I realized at once that I had gotten myself into a nasty position. I instantly . . .ordered the… Johnnies to ‘ground arms!’ They obeyed. Then slightly turning my head, I addressed an imaginary guard in the brush with a hasty order to ‘halt… and then gave the order to my prisoners: ‘Single file, march’ and to my imaginary guard: ‘Forward March.’ I hurried toward the command at good speed.”
His quick thinking and ingenuity provided a peaceful solution to a deadly encounter.”
Source: http://www.iowahistory.org/shsi/museum/exhibits/medal-of-honor/hill_james_cw/index.htm (cited on the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Facebook page).
On this third anniversary of The Chaplain Kit, I thought that it would be a good time to introduce a new initiative that is needed in the military/veteran community. I often see posts from an organization in Las Vegas which I support, that they have an urgent financial or material need for a homeless or in-need veteran. I always try to help but my personal resources are limited. I also realize that for every “call to action” from Caridad, there are certainly dozens or likely even hundreds of other immediate needs across the country to care for former Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsman who need a little help in a hurry. While there are many organizations out there that provide assistance for Veterans, often those wheels move slowly and/or are not available in the “immediate” timeframe needed to help them be ready for a job interview, get a place to live, or even have food to eat today. I would like to have a fund that can quickly be dispersed to legitimate and certified “charities” when there’s a call to action for an immediate, and limited, need to help a Veteran.
I reasoned that chaplains, and others who are interested in the ministry of chaplains (visitors to The Chaplain Kit), are likely to be among the most compassionate givers around, so anticipate that this can be a tremendous ministry drawing from the hundreds of people who view The Chaplain Kit every month. So, The Chaplain Kit is beginning The Offering Plate as a place for interested people to contribute to a fund which can be quickly disbursed through recognized charities to help veterans with an immediate need.
This fund will not be used for development or maintenance of The Chaplain Kit website, collections, exhibits, advertising or anything related to The Chaplain Kit; to promote or evangelize for a particular faith group; to establish, develop or support charities or ministries; or anything other than the stated purpose of the fund.
This fund will be used to quickly get money to recognized charities when a call to action goes out for a limited, immediate and urgent financial or material need for a veteran or veterans. Funds from The Offering Plate will go directly to meet the need of the veteran (through a recognized charity) and not into the charity’s general or administrative funds.
Official 501 (c)(3) status will be pursued, as well as membership in a financial accountability organization such as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, to provide accountability and transparency in regard to receipts and distributions. From the beginning, The Offering Plate page will have publically available receipts and disbursements as well as any “testimonials” received from recipients, so donors and interested visitors can see exactly what has come into the fund and what has gone out.
Very soon, a new widget with links will show up on The Chaplain Kit Facebook page and website. Readers are encouraged to keep up with what The Chaplain Kit is able to do through The Offering Plate and, as you are able, contribute to this important and vital fund to help our veterans.
Photo of homeless veteran from The Blaze website. The caption read: “In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 photo, homeless Korean War veteran Thomas Moore, 79, left, speaks with Boston Health Care for the Homeless street team outreach coordinator Romeena Lee on a sidewalk in Boston. (AP/Steven Senne)”
It has been three years since The Chaplain Kit went live. That first month (April 2014) there were just 32 views dipping to just 8 in May then 11 in June! From then on, visitors have consistently increased until in November 2015 it hit over 1000 page views per month, then this past April (2017) it topped 3000! There have been over 44,000 page views since the beginning, viewed by nearly 20,000 visitors from all 50 U.S. states as well as from 122 different countries including China, Iran and Vatican City! It has been fun collecting, researching and posting, not to mention the many people I have met and gotten to know through The Chaplain Kit, both the website and the Facebook page. I hope that the materials and information on the site have been beneficial (and maybe even a blessing) to those of you who have found your way here. Thank you for your support of the ministry of chaplains evidenced by your visits to The Chaplain Kit, your “likes” and your shares!
Wherever Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines go, Chaplains go with them to provide for worship and other religious events. Easter is no different, and for Christians, even brings a greater emphasis when deployed and away from home. Below are a few pictures from Easter celebrations from years past.
(From the official Army website)
FORT JACKSON, South Carolina — Complete with a Tactical Operations Center (TOC), media engagements and reality-based missions — along with conducting Soldier Leader Engagements with indigenous personnel — students from the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course experienced the challenges of caring for Soldiers in a simulated combat environment, March 27-31.
CHBOLC is an intensive, outcomes-based, entry-level, initial military training process for newly accessioned chaplains and chaplain candidates, with a mission to train students to become religious leaders who demonstrate the core competencies of nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen, while advising commanders and providing religious support to the Army Family.
“The CHBOLC Capstone FTX (Field Training Exercise) is a Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) 2.2 scenario-driven exercise, providing students the opportunity to apply classroom training in a realistic and progressive training environment,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Andrew K. Arrington, the CHBOLC course developer.
Read the full article here …
Prayer, meditation room gives HQC employees calm atmosphere to practice spirituality
by Beth Reece. Originally published by the DLA at their website.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia — A quiet, serene spot for prayer and reflection is just steps away for McNamara Headquarters Complex employees.
The former chapel in Room 1331 is now a newly renovated prayer and meditation room open 24/7 for employees of all faiths. A Feb. 16 ribbon-cutting ceremony will formally open the room to employees, but it is already available for use.
“We’ve redesigned the space so everything inside helps with prayer and meditation,” said Army Col. Carleton Birch, the Defense Logistics Agency’s command chaplain. “We also took into account different types of faith, so instead of being filled with chairs, there’s an open space on the floor for meditation and Muslim prayer.”
A water fountain, scenic wall mural and guest book where employees can record prayer requests are among the updates. Other changes include all new ceiling tiles, recessed lighting, carpet, furniture and prayer rugs. A private room is also available inside for pastoral counseling and reading.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the room is an LED light box that depicts a stained glass window from the Defense Distribution Susquehanna Chapel, which was built in 1941 and is one of the Defense Department’s oldest chapels.
Birch said the room further demonstrates DLA’s commitment to resiliency, a goal that’s part of the “People and Culture” objectives in the agency’s strategic plan. The DLA resiliency model includes four pillars: mental, physical, social and spiritual.
“DLA recognizes the value of people’s spirituality in their personal resiliency, and the fact that we can provide a place to practice that is a good thing for employees and DLA as a whole. People don’t stop having faith just because they come to work,” Birch said.
He hopes the room will become a center where employees can also exhibit their faith by helping others.
“We used to collect toiletries for homeless shelters in the area, for example. We’re trying to get that going again, and we’re also partnering with the Fisher House here on Fort Belvoir to see what we can do to help them,” Birch added.
This article first appeared at the Defense Logistics Agency’s website, 15 February 2017. The photos, taken by Beth Reece, appeared with the article and are in the public domain.
Similar to U.S. military posts around the country during the train-up to our participation in WW2, Fort Jackson had built on it 17 cantonment chapels to accommodate the religious support of the thousands of new Soldiers who were flooding into it for training. Today, there are few of these chapels left, some posts having one or two being used, others with one being preserved as part of the museum system or historic districts. Fort Jackson has one of these chapels remaining which, due to budget cuts, is slated to be razed. On 13 December 2016, The State newspaper did an article on the future of their Memorial Chapel.
Should Fort Jackson’s World War II-era Memorial Chapel be saved from demolition?
“For more than 30 years, Kathryn Woodward has attended an interdenominational worship service each week at the World War II-era Memorial Chapel on Fort Jackson.
“Today, the chapel, along with all other World War II-era wooden buildings on Army installations across the country, is slated for demolition. They are inefficient, expensive to heat, cool and maintain, and they don’t fit the needs of the modern workplace, the Army says.
“But Woodward, 92, believes the chapel should stay because in 1983 it was dedicated by then-Fort Jackson commander Maj. Gen. Albert Akers to all the soldiers who trained at Fort Jackson for service in World War II. Woodward’s late husband, Arthur, was also a World War II veteran.
“ ‘We’re trying to get an exception,’ said Woodward, who is joined in the effort by many of her fellow 40 or so congregants, along with a Jewish congregation that also worships there.”
Continue reading at The State website …