The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps celebrates its 245th birthday July 29.
According to Chaplain (Col.) Gregory Walker, Fort Leonard Wood’s senior chaplain, the Chaplain Corps, like the Army, was founded in 1775 and is older than the nation itself. Since its inception, more than 25,000 Army chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their families. Army Chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements.
“On July 29, 1775, George Washington asked the Continental Congress to authorize chaplains to meet the spiritual needs of his soldiers as they prepared to win America’s liberty,” Walker said. “Army chaplains have served in every conflict in our nation’s history, and 400 military chaplains have given their lives.”
Walker added that although Army chaplains are uniformed members of the military, they are designated non-combatants as their primary mission is not to engage the enemy but to improve spiritual fitness through confidential counsel and ministry to service members of all faiths.
In remembrance of the corps’ birthday, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Walter Marshall, the garrison chaplain, reflected on his fellow chaplains who have died in the line of duty.
“We are sent … to serve our country through ministry to all who fight to issue the freedom of America,” he said.
Marshall added that – in lieu of a traditional celebration due to COVID-19 risk mitigations – his office will instead conduct a historical review on the heritage of the corps.
While being one of the oldest groups across all four branches of the military, the Chaplain Corps is also one of the smallest, with 1,344 active-duty chaplains in service and approximately 2,700 total including the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard, Marshall said. And although small in number, six chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor throughout the history of the nation.
To read more about the history of the Chaplain Corps, visit https://armyhistory.org/u-s-army-chaplain-corps.