Military Chaplains Honored at Memorial Dedication Ceremony

December 20, 2017

HONOLULU, Dec. 20, 2017 — Chaplains from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, past and present, were honored at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific during the Chaplains Memorial Dedication here, Dec. 14, 2017.

The dedication began with a prayer.

After two years of phone calls and piles of paperwork, retired Army Chaplain (Col.) Richard “Dick” Stenbakken, who’s the co-chairman of the Chaplain Memorial Committee for the national Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, made the memorial a reality. Stenbakken donned a World War II captain’s uniform at the dedication.

Stenbakken said the memorial honors military chaplains from multiple faiths who’ve served in the past or are presently serving across the Pacific region.

Chaplains’ Legacy, Future Service

“It is essential that we remember what chaplains have done in the past, what chaplains are doing now and that we look into the future,” Stenbakken said. “Chaplaincy is the core and the heart of the values in any military branch. This memorial is also a reminder to the community that the chaplains were there and are there for their family members that have served.”

He added, “I hope this will be an ongoing reminder of commitment for chaplains. Their service has to be rock-solid and grounded just like this memorial.”

In honor of fallen chaplains, Rabbi Irving A. Elson, a retired Navy captain and the director of the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council, read the famous eulogy delivered by Rabbi Roland B Gittelsohn. The eulogy was given for those who died at Iwo Jima and was read into the U.S. Congressional record in 1945.

“‘Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding,” Elson read. “And other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, black and white, rich men and poor, together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together.

“‘Here, no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color,” Elson continued. “Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.’”

Army Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Paul K. Hurley was a guest speaker at the ceremony. He reminded his fellow military chaplains in attendance of the importance of remembering the legacy of those that came before them in order to prepare for the mission ahead.

“This memorial is important,” Hurley said. “It is important to have a marker to remind us of what we are here for. As chaplains, we are here to take care of the souls and spirits of soldiers and their families. This memorial is for all chaplains. This is for everyone. This is a reminder of our past and how important it is to what we are doing now.”