The Spiritual Thread: a Ministry of Airmen

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Mark Edelstein
  • 55th Wing Chapel
The Air Force Chaplain Corps is a ministry like no other. Worlds removed from its civilian counterparts, our chaplain corps remains faithful to its motto: ministry for the military life. That means the entirety of military life. Indeed, there is scarcely an aspect of military life not affected by the chapel. Marriages, unit morale and personal well being are all enhanced by a spiritual thread that runs through our daily lives.

That thread winds through many aspects of our lives and the issues we face as military members. From suicide prevention to the Year of the Air Force Family, from our balancing our families and our jobs to our spirituality and faith, the spiritual thread connects us as a community.

The spiritual thread coils itself tightly around the sanctity of human life. The infinite value of life is manifested in the caring and concern of Airmen of all ranks who take the time and exercise the initiative to attend suicide prevention workshops. To help with this emotional and challenging issue, chaplains and chaplain assistants now teach safeTALK, a three-hour program that teaches Airmen to identify friends and colleagues suffering from suicidal thoughts. These safeTALK-trained suicide alert responders use their skills to intervene at the most crucial moment of a fellow Airman's life.

The secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff of the Air Force have named the past year, Year of the Air Force Family, and Airmen responded tremendously. Many are taking the opportunity to improve their marriages and parenting skills. Young couples, committed to the sanctity of their respective marriages, have demanded pastoral assistance. In turn, the chapel has implemented a host of marriage seminars and retreats -- some valued at nearly $1,000 per couple.

The entire active-duty family is pitching in, and our spouses are a vital component of the religious support team. This is perhaps most evident in the revamped Mother 2 Mother program. Air Force mothers are banding together to take on the challenges of raising a family in the military, strengthening that thread.

Sometimes, with everything that the chapel does, we forget about our principle mission -- religion. Once again, Airmen have led the way. From the senior airman assisting communion to the staff sergeant leading a bible study group, our Airmen are bringing a degree of spirituality into our lives.

The spiritual thread of the Air Force is multifaceted and personalized to each Airman. Unlike any ministry in the civilian world, the Air Force ministry isn't limited to any single religion. At Offutt alone, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i worshipers all share a single building. Numerous other faith groups are represented throughout the Air Force at large.

This isn't a civilian ministry. It isn't a ministry run by civilian pastors, but by Air Force member chaplains. The Air Force Chaplain Corps isn't a ministry run toward Airmen, but a ministry run by Airmen. Airmen who are committed to improving the spiritual thread already present throughout our lives.