Chaplains celebrate 226 years of service

30 Nov 2001 | Capt. Eric R. Dent

"I've known many men in combat who quickly found religion. Thank God we had a chaplain with us on the front lines," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Ed Moser, as he reflected on time spent in the cold Korean hills in early 1953. 

For many Marines, chaplains and combat come hand-in-hand.  Throughout our Corps' history, chaplains have been nearby, serving spiritual ammo during times of stress and turmoil. 

The Navy Chaplain Corps celebrated its 226th anniversary Nov. 28.  Since 1775, and the adopting of the second article of Navy Regulations, ship captains were charged with "ensuring that religious services are performed twice a day onboard ship and a sermon preached on Sundays."

Since then, chaplains have served alongside Marines and Sailors in every clime and place, peacetime or war, ship or land. 

"The chaplain's comforting words had a calming effect on me and my Marines.  We were facing mortal danger and the chaplain provided inspiration," said Moser.  "Seeing a chaplain on the (front) line with you makes you less scared."

Navy Capt. Allen C. Allen, the Marine Forces Atlantic chaplain, traveled to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort this week to celebrate the anniversary with Fightertown's chaplains.

Allen, a former Marine helicopter pilot, is no stranger to the Lowcountry.  He began his military chaplain career at MCAS Beaufort nearly twenty years ago. 

Prior to becoming a chaplain, Allen served in Vietnam where he flew CH-46s and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal with 52 strike/flight awards.

Allen offered an explanation of the Chaplain Corps' commitment and success:  "The chaplain's role is to be present.  We minister to the Marines by being beside them. We meet them where they are, physically and spiritually."

"The chaplain is a visible reminder of the eternal perspective.  In garrison or in combat, the role of the chaplain remains constant, while the environment may change," said Lt. David M. Todd, MCAS Beaufort chaplain. "We provide a 'people service.'"

Commander Donald M. Cramblit, the Marine Aircraft Group 31 chaplain, echoed Todd's comments.  "We try to bring the best out of people by getting them in touch with their core values."

Telling tales of chaplains spreading faith among the Marines, Cramblit described a story of a determined chaplain who knew he was needed. 

During 1989 military operations in Panama, a chaplain braved enemy fire to provide Christmas services to Marines in the field.

When the chaplain made it to the Marines' position, his vehicle was riddled with bullet holes from enemy snipers, but the chaplain knew it was where he was needed.

For one Korean War veteran, the mere presence of a chaplain is credited for his survival.  "I know that my faith kept me safe and alive," said Moser.  "My chaplain reinforced that faith.  He did the same for many."