MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- The sweet fragrance of incense and the soft chants of parishioners drift into the passageway of the third deck of the USS Harry S. Truman. Behind the closed door, Marines and Sailors, illuminated by candlelight, pray in quiet tranquility as they look to strengthen their faith.
Despite being miles at sea, Marines and Sailors gather throughout the week at the various religious services offered aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
“We have a full complement of religious services,” said Cmdr. Milton D. Gianulis, command chaplain, Carrier Air Wing 3, Carrier Air Wing 3, a Greek Orthodox priest. “In addition to Eastern Orthodox, we offer Roman Catholic and a variety of Protestant services, as well as Islamic, Latter Day Saints and more.”
When Marines and Sailors deploy, they need to have a place that offers a sense of solace and peace, according to Gianulis. One place they can find comfort is the chapel aboard the Truman.
“We do our best to give a church atmosphere,” Gianulis said. “The chapel is a good and holy place.”
The Chaplain Corps provides the same religious services to Marines and Sailors on shore that it does while they are at sea, according to Gianulis.
“One of the fundamentals is that we facilitate the needs of others,” Gianulis said. “Perhaps the most important is that we indiscriminately care.”
Regardless of where service members are, they are still entitled to religious freedom, and chaplains exist to provide them with that, according to Gianulis.
“It’s a real blessing to be able to provide services to men and women who protect the rights of freedom, which includes the freedom of religion.”
Chaplains have been serving the Navy and Marine Corps for more than 200 years. There are few chaplains that go without serving both Sailors and Marines, according to Gianulis, who had served as a chaplain at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
“We are one combat team,” Gianulis said. “The Marine culture has always been respectful of the chaplain services.”
Although some service members come to church for the first time on ship, most attendees are also active in their churches on shore, according to Gianulis.
“The thing I like about church is what I like about church everywhere,” said Cpl. B. D. Ware, administration noncommissioned officer in charge, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115. “It’s about people coming together under one roof for one cause.”
Church rejuvenates the spirit after a week of stress and worry, according to Ware. It gives service members a chance to be thankful for making through the week and to pray for more blessing for the next.
“The services on the ship are very good,” Ware said. “However, you only get out of it what you put into it. If you go to church and you just sit there and do not participate, you can’t expect to gain anything from it.”
The chapel aboard the Truman offers good environment, according to Ware. It’s a home away from home and a family away from ones family.
“Although the majority of members are military, there is no rank inside the church house,” Ware said. “Church is just that— church.”
The doors to the chaplains’ offices are always open, all one needs to do is knock and enter. Even if all the seats are filled in the ship’s chapel, there is always room for one more.