Chaplains support deployed, stateside missions

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Diana M. Cossaboom
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"It is an honor to stand beside a brother or sister, wearing the same uniform, putting your life in the hands of another and walking with those who had the same commitment as you, together, in the same great struggle. To us who assemble here today, I say may we continue to carry the banner of freedom with the same honor and dignity as our departed friends," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Kelley, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing wing chaplain, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, during his speech to military members at the memorial ceremony of the six Air Force members who died Dec. 31, 2015, of wounds suffered when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber.

A chaplain's duty extends beyond administering religious ceremonies; their duty of maintaining morale keeps military members mission ready in deployed, overseas and stateside environments.

The chaplains and chaplain assistants provide religious services to ensure military members and their families can practice their religious freedoms. However, sitting with Airmen in counseling sessions and going out to the units to engage with the Airmen is a big piece of how chaplains help maintain mission readiness, said Chaplain (Maj.) Richard Holmes, 20th Fighter Wing wing chaplain.

Kelley, deployed from the 20th FW, ensured the six fallen Airmen were honored while taking care of those left behind in the deployed environment. Monsignor Mark Rowan, 20th FW Catholic priest, carried the proverbial torch by assisting in a stateside memorial for one of those Airmen, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm, deployed from Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York. Rowan supported the family, friends, and co-workers during their time of grief and ensured Lemm was honored for his sacrifice.

"It's what we do as chaplains," said Rowan. "We have to be there to take care of an Air Force brother. This was the best way I could honor him, honor his commitment, honor his family, and continue to work what Chaplain Kelley started on the other side."

Some of the ways chaplains and chaplain assistants support their Airmen and families is by constantly being available to provide spiritual assistance, individual, unit and marriage counseling, assistance with problems back home and unit engagement and much more. Regardless of where chaplains are stationed around the globe, they fill a vital role for service members and their families.

"It's about being available for our warriors who are on the front lines," said Holmes. "There are times when you get bad news from home and you don't know where to turn, and us chaplains provide that tool to help the mission and help that warrior re-focus and be able to go back to the mission."

While deployed, chaplains and chaplain assistants have a vital role in supporting the mission, and their mission not only continues when they return home, but expands.

"For chaplains and chaplain assistants, we love what we get to do," said Holmes. "It's awesome to know that you get to wake up every morning, put on this uniform, and go out and be a tool in helping people. Whether you get to do it stateside, overseas, or in a deployed location, it's an honor to be in this position and know that you can make a positive impact on at least one person's life a day."