Wingspan: Purpose and the Civil Air Patrol’s Pillar of Spirit

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Chaplain Stu Boyd provides his perspective on the fourth of the new Civil Air Patrol Five Pillars of Wellness and Resilience — the Pillar of Spirit.  Each pillar has four focus areas associated with it, and the Pillar of Spirit includes a focus on “purpose.”  Purpose is Chaplain Boyd’s topic in this month’s post.

The Pillar of Spirit is the fourth area of support for the Civil Air Patrol Five Pillars of Wellness and Resilience.

by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stu Boyd
Utah Wing, Civil Air Patrol

Spirituality is the fourth pillar of the wellness model.  What is spirituality? Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it’s about participating in organized religion: going to a church, synagogue, mosque, and so on. For others, spirituality is a non-religious experience that varies from person to person—some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, quiet reflection, a belief in the supernatural, or long walksThe point of this article is to argue that we are all spiritual people.  I come to this conclusion from the perspective that we all struggle with the answer to five key questions dealing with the purpose for our lives.  These questions are:

  • Who am I?
  • Where did I come from?
  • Where am I going?
  • How shall I live?
  • Why?

One of my favorite authors is Victor Hugo.  He wrote a book titled Les Misérables which is considered one of the finest novels of the 19th century. It has been the subject of at least three films, a huge hit as a musical production on Broadway as well as internationally and is soon to be an offering on PBS.  The book is long, but I encourage you to take it on, even in an abridged version. It is a story that deals with these five questions and the spiritual development of one man.  

Jean Valjean was convicted of stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family.  After nineteen years he is pardoned, but as a convicted criminal, has few opportunities for employment.  He encounters a bishop who shows him great favor by not having him arrested for stealing his silver which would return him to prison for life.  The bishop s sends him on, telling him that he should find purpose in life by showing the same grace to others. The tale then goes on to detail how he lives out his life showing grace and compassion to many.

The new Character Development program will begin soon.  It replaces the Flight Time: Values for Living curriculum with a new set of lessons.  There are only 24 lessons and each squadron will teach the same lesson each month. The curriculum is focused on helping each member of Civil Air Patrol deal with developing personal answer these five questions.

Who am I?  CAP’s Core Values speaks loudly to the first question.  I am a person who practices:

  • Integrity – This is “me” when nobody else is around.  I am honest person as it relates to my personal conduct as well as being honest when interacting with others.
  • Excellence – I will always do my best at whatever task faces me as well as encourage others to strive to do the best as well.
  • Volunteer Service – I am willing to sacrifice my wants and instead, help others whether it be in terms of material things or time.  
  • Respect – I am willing to treat all people as I, myself, would like to be treated.

Where did I come from?  There is an amazing set of circumstances that brings us to life in the womb.   There are thousands of events that are part of the process leading to our birth.  Were they a result of an accidental set of circumstances or was there a plan?

Where am I going?  Am I able to make a difference by my presence here on this planet?  “Difference” can be defined is many ways. For some it is helping others, for others it might be making money or gaining power.  We each need to know where we are headed and why.

How shall I live?   One definition of spirituality is “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”  We must consider the “human spirit” as not only involving our own spirit, but the spirit of others. Are we willing to consider others even when we don’t want to?  

Why?   We will encounter situations that don’t seem to sense.  We can react in either a positive or negative way. Negative reactions can lead to anxiety and depression.   The better response is to put the event behind us and move on to a “better day tomorrow.”

Spirituality, as I said at the beginning, is not related just to religion.  In fact, some sources separate the two. But, as a Chaplain, I must share my own opinion.  I have seen combat seen others die; I experienced disappointments and tragedy; I have walked through grief in my life and the life of others—yet I have been able to look to a resource greater than myself to walk me through the “dark places.”  I believe each of us needs a resource to walk with us through the dark times. That resource does not have to be an organized religion or group—but you need a resource. There is a popular song from the Rogers and Hammerstein show, Carousel, You’ll Never Walk Alone.  Read the words and reflect on who is walking with you.


When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

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