Pentagon display honors 'unsung' chaplains
Written by Steven Donald Smith
August - September 2006
September 1, 2006
A new display commemorating military chaplains was dedicated June 23 in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
The display - the first in the Pentagon to specifically honor chaplains - consists of four backlit panels that highlight the accomplishments and service of military chaplains since the American Revolution.
More than 7,500 chaplains, chaplains' assistants and religious program specialists are currently serving around the world, representing more than 200 religious organizations.
"This ceremony commemorates the unselfish ministry of a group of unsung heroes in the Department of Defense - our military chaplains and assistant chaplains," said David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense. "We are thankful to the extraordinary partnership that exists between the churches of our land and Department of Defense to make the chaplaincy work."
One of the exhibit's display panels includes an excerpt from a letter written by George Washington that includes observations about the importance of chaplains.
Eight chaplains and one chaplains' assistant have received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor. Four were chaplains who died aboard an Army ship during World War II, when it was struck by a German torpedo in waters south of Greenland. As the ship sank, four chaplains - two protestant ministers, a Jewish rabbi, and a Roman Catholic priest - gave up their life jackets to save others.
Chu said present-day chaplains are just as selfless as those of past generations.
"Religious chaplains of today are making history on 21st-century battlefields, at remote outposts, on ships at sea, in dangerous operations overseas and here at home," he said. "In a world in which religious differences and tensions often leads to bloodshed, the chaplains of our armed forces demonstrate remarkable cooperation and willingness to serve in the pluralistic setting of our military."