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    U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps Celebrates 246th birthday

    U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps Celebrates 246th birthday

    Photo By Bernard Little | Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Nahum Melendez, a chaplain clinician and the youngest serving...... read more read more



    Story by Bernard Little 

    Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

    Chaplains in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps celebrated the corps’ 246th birthday during a cake-cutting ceremony Nov. 18 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
    The U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps traces its roots to Nov. 28, 1775 when the second article of Navy Regulations was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. It stated that "the Commanders of the ships of the 13 United Colonies are to take care that divine services be performed twice a day on board and a sermon preached on Sundays unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent."
    In his birthday message to the corps, the Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Navy, Rear Adm. Brent Scott, stated, “For 246 years, Navy chaplains have cared for Sailors and Marines around the globe and through every conflict, at sea and ashore. Today, the men and women of the Chaplain Corps continue to build and sustain the spiritual readiness of our people. Readiness for the test of war is impossible without Sailors and Marines who are ready in body, mind, and spirit. The work of our chaplains and RPs [religious program specialists] is wholly dedicated to the readiness of the spirit. Thank you for your legacy of care to our people.”
    Navy Capt. Raymond Houk, chaplain for Navy Medicine, served as guest speaker for the ceremony at WRNMMC. “The history of the Navy Chaplain Corps started with directions to commanders, and ever since, commanders have been responsible for the spiritual well-being and readiness of the crew. That is the fighting spirit of the services we are in,” Houk said.
    He furthered stated that six Navy ships have been named for chaplains: the USS Rentz (FFG-46), USS Kirkpatrick (DE 318), USS O'Callahan (FF-1051), USS Capodanno (FF-1093), USS Schmitt (DE-676) and the USS Laboon (DDG-58).
    • Chaplain George Rentz served during World War I and World War II, and was the only Navy chaplain to be awarded the Navy Cross during World War II.
    • Chaplain Thomas Kirkpatrick also served as a chaplain during World War I and War II. He died when the ship he was serving on, the USS Arizona, sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
    • Chaplain Aloysius H. Schmitt was the first chaplain to die in World War II while serving aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    • Chaplain Joseph O’Callahan served during World War II and was awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during and after an attack on the aircraft carrier aboard which he was serving, USS Franklin. Following an attack by a Japanese aircraft on the ship, he is credited with “braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them,” states his MoH citation.
    • Chaplain Vincent Capodanno served during the Vietnam War and was killed in action while assigned to a Marine Corps infantry unit. He was a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, for heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty. The Catholic Church has declared him a Servant of God, the first of the four stages toward possible sainthood. He is credited with leaving the relative safety of the company command post, running through an open area of gunfire directly to a beleaguered platoon and moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded.
    • Chaplain John Laboon served as a submariner during World War II and as a Roman Catholic chaplain during the Vietnam War, earning the Legion of Merit. He earned the Silver Star during World War II for rescuing a downed pilot while swimming through mined water off the coast of Japan. During Vietnam, he served as a battlefield chaplain.
    Houk also noted Navy Lt. j.g. Florence Dianna Pohlman was the first female chaplain in the Department of Defense to be commissioned July 2, 1973. Also, Joshua Goldberg was the first rabbi to be commissioned as a U.S. Navy chaplain in World War II, the first to reach the rank of Navy captain, and the first to retire after a full active-duty career. And Navy Chaplain Thomas David Parham Jr. was the Navy's first black captain.
    He also mentioned Chaplain Barry C. Black, the first African-American Navy Chief of Chaplains who currently serves as the 62nd Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and Margaret Kibben, the 26th Chief of Chaplains for the Navy (the first woman to hold the position), 18th Chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps and the deputy chief of chaplains of the U.S. Navy, who is currently the chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman in that position.
    Houk’s own career as a Navy chaplain Corps after he served in the Marine Corps and he decided to volunteer at the base chapel to make some friends and engage with the local community in Japan.
    Chaplains provide a vital service to military members, their families and others during times of war and peace, Houk said. In addition to advising commander on the well-being and spiritual welfare of those in the unit, chaplains also serve as confidants, advisers, mentors, counselors and companions to those they assist and serve.
    Chaplains are especially important members of the medical team, according to Houk. During a recent interview, he stated, “To ‘stay in the fight’ could mean a fight against cancer or another physical ailment, the spiritual struggle that comes along with that, whether that be grief or loss, or operationally in a combat zone.
    “We train like we fight in the military, so in the teaching hospitals and the military treatment facilities where we’re training those doctors, nurses, and corpsmen to take care of patients and take care of one another, we carry those same skills forward,” he said, “and part of that skill is to be spiritually resilient.”
    “Sometimes, just the presence of a chaplain in a combat situation can encourage warfighters to keep going, to go that extra step in taking care of their buddies or going out on another patrol,” Houk said. “Faith adds strength and value to peoples’ lives and allows them to continue on through difficult situations.”
    Editor’s note: Jacob Moore of the Military Health System contributed to this article.



    Date Taken: 11.24.2021
    Date Posted: 11.24.2021 14:58
    Story ID: 410028
    Location: BETHESDA, MD, US 

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