July 29th marks the 241st anniversary of the Army Chaplain Corps. This branch of the Army is one of the oldest and smallest. It was created in 1775 as a division that would provide services during war or peacetime for religion, moral support, and counseling for all the armed forces. One chaplain was designated for each regiment by the Continental Congress, and since organizing this, there have been about 25,000 chaplains serving as spiritual leaders for millions of soldiers. In 1862, Congress passed a law authorizing the Chaplain Corps to contain non-Christian denominations, and as of today, the Corps have served in over 270 wars and conflicts that the US has been involved in.
Army Chaplain Corps, Motto, Mission & Celebration
Today there are around 2,700 members of the Army Chaplain Corps, and these chaplains around the country are already starting to celebrate the birthday of the Corps. Just last week, a group in a Missouri military base gathered at the bowling alley to share inspiring words and cut a birthday cake. Each year, there is also a wreath ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery which hundreds of chaplains will attend, often traveling long distances to connect with other chaplains they haven’t seen in a while. This year on the 29th, there will be a live streaming on the Army Chaplain Corps Facebook page of the Chief of Chaplains and Regimental Sergeant Major laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Motto and Mission
A museum located in South Carolina at Fort Jackson commemorates the legacy of the chaplains and displays the history of upholding the Corps motto of Pro Deo et Patria, meaning “For God and Country.” The Army Chaplain mission statement declares that it provides religious support for the US Army, and upholds the right for all soldiers to exercise their religions freely. Units of chaplains are included in the reserve, active, and guard components of the Army. On the Army Chaplain Corps website, you can view the full motto and mission statement along with the official Army Chaplain Corps logo, flag, crest, and colors.
How Do You Become an Army Chaplain?
Several requirements must be met before being accepted into the Army Chaplain Corps. Just a few include US citizenship, age between 18 and 36, ecclesiastical approval, security clearance, and a baccalaureate degree. Beyond these requirements, a chaplain candidate will go through further training and assessments before becoming an Army chaplain. The AR 165-1 Army Chaplain Corps Activities manual details the responsibilities, requirements, policies, and protocol of the Army chaplains.
Story of the Four Chaplains
A few chaplains (and even a chaplain assistance) have received the medal of honor over the history of the Corps. But 4 specific chaplains are perhaps more famous than any other for their demonstrations of extreme valor. During WWII, Dorchester (a troop transport ship) started sinking after a torpedo hit. Aboard the ship were 4 chaplains who were all lieutenants of different Faiths: Alexander D. Goode, George L. Fox, John P. Washington, and Clark V. Poling. Each chaplain gave up his life jacket to save other soldiers and sailors aboard and ministered to them before the chaplains sacrificed their lives.
This and other stories of the Army Chaplain Corps give standing testimony to the great work that these members do every day. We at Low VA Rates respect this and every branch of the military and we want to say a big “Happy Birthday” to the Corps.