Commander’s Call to Prayer — National Conference 2018
by Col Barry Melton, CAP, South East Region Commander
I am especially grateful for this opportunity. I must admit that when Chaplain Freeman called me, he used a bit of trickery, and I thanked him for sparing my ego by not telling me how many speakers turned him down before he called me.
Its obvious that we have a number of distinguished guests in the audience, and I certainly want to acknowledge that fact. But, please allow me to speak primarily to the chaplains in the room. These folk have been called to a special mission both inside and outside of CAP and I want to share a few words with them this morning.
While doing some research for this talk, I was struck by the number of definitions or descriptions of chaplains that included something like: “Those who spread the Good Word AND live among those to whom they minister.” I think its most important to understand the words “live among those to whom they minister.” In my opinion, \living among” us is a hallmark of the chaplaincy. “Living among …” provides stability; “Living among” means a familiar face in the good times and in the bad
times; and “living among” means having a highly-qualified individual in the CAP unit who is well familiar with the
spiritual needs of our members.
The picture that is painted by this description is different than that of a pastor or a priest…. I mean no harm whatsoever to those spiritual vocations, but, there is a difference. The chaplain lives among us and shares our common values, goals, and commitment to the organization.
Obviously, the spiritual care of our members is the #1 responsibility of the Chaplains Corp and is closely aligned with the guidance Character Development Officers provide our cadets.
Chaplains and CDIs come along side our cadets at formative times in their lives. Your positive influence cannot and should not be minimized.
My prayer is that commanders not only recognize the \front line” duties chaplains perform, but also those no-less significant duties which do not get the airplay or recognition; for often those unheralded actions hold a greater significance or longer term impact for the member.
Not only are chaplains called to oversee the spiritual well-being of the members assigned to their unit, but new areas of opportunity are opening up … matter of fact, we might find that chaplains are the most versatile members in the organization.
For many years, the stereotypical association chaplains had with Emergency Services centered around a HF or VHF radio. Today, chaplains have more opportunities than ever to combine their calling with emergency services. Hopefully, everyone in the room is familiar with CHESS, or the Chaplains Emergency Services School.
This program provides CAP chaplains with the training they need to be qualied as a Mission Chaplain and work along side other ES-qualified members, while providing the spiritual support and counseling required by a family who has just received bad news or CAP members who are working long hours on an ES or Disaster Relief mission.
The need and opportunities for Mission Chaplains has never been greater. My mind goes back to 2010: CAP spent 118 continuous days supporting the Deepwater Horizon mission. A lone CAP Mission Chaplain was asked by the Coast Guard to take responsibility for the spiritual needs of the 1,200 workers who had been deployed to Mobile, AL.
As I visited with Chaplain Marcus Taylor at the Command Post, I was shocked to learn that all other agency chaplains had been released from duty, leaving him as the only Chaplain at the Command Post. I was proud, but saddened by the thought that we needed more mission qualified Chaplains in CAP. Today, the CHESS program is providing the opportunity for all CAP chaplains to become a Mission Chaplain.
Let me speak directly to the Chaplains now: If you are not a Mission Chaplain, please become one. Your value to this organization will be exponentially increased.
Now, in my faith group, often I overhear phrases such as \his reward is in heaven” or \her reward is not on this earth, it is in heaven.” In like manner, while on this earth, chaplains will never know the totality of their impact or the number lives they have changed for the better.
Chaplains are selfless servants, but, (and this may come as a surprise), they are human, and they deserve our appreciation. So chaplains, thank you for living and working among us.
In conclusion, allow me to share some details about two times when CAP chaplains were personally involved in my life:
My very first knowledge of Civil Air Patrol came through a CAP chaplain. As a nine year old, I could not figure out why an elderly gentlemen who attended my church wore an Air Force uniform to church one time a year. One Sunday, I got up the courage to ask him if he would assist me.
Being 9 years-old, I’m not quite sure I comprehended what I was being told. Chaplain Fred Whisman and I had no more conversations about CAP until the chartering of our squadron in 1986, but it was obvious that he was very dedicated to this organization and proudly wore his uniform on \CAP Sunday.”
The second event was death of my father in 1999. As is the tradition, the family of the deceased arrives at the funeral home a few minutes prior to the appointed hour of the wake or viewing. My wife and I arrived for the viewing as directed, and having entered the funeral home, we were immediately met by Chaplain Gary Hedges, a Tennessee Wing Chaplain.
No one from my church was there, and no other family members had yet arrived. Only Chaplain Hedges. While I know funeral visitations are “standard operating procedure” for most chaplains, I will never forget Chaplain Hedges being there for my little family, in our time of need.
Chaplains, please allow me to admonish you is to keep on keeping on. While some may think your contribution to this organization is small and insignificant, you have a great responsibility and even a greater opportunity. You have the opportunity to make this organization better, one member at a time. I know that sounds a bit cliche, but it is the truth. It’s the way your work, one member at a time.
So keep up your good work, chaplains! May God bless you, and may God bless each of us gathered here this morning as we renew our commitment to Him and to this great organization. Thank you.