News>AF Chief of Chaplains speaks at Holloman's National Prayer Luncheon
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson, U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, speaks during Holloman’s National Prayer luncheon March 4, 2011. The luncheon is a tradition held every year to celebrate freedom of religion and dates back to 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Turner/Released)
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 62nd Army Band Brass Quintet out of Ft. Bliss, Texas, perform during Holloman’s National Prayer luncheon March 4, 2011. The event also featured music by the Chapel’s Protestant Praise Team and a reading of passages from the Bible, the Torah and the Quran. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Turner/Released)
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson, U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, speaks during Holloman’s National Prayer luncheon March 4, 2011. The luncheon is a yearly event that’s held all over the nation to celebrate the freedom to practice religion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Turner/Released)
by Senior Airman Sondra Escutia
49th Wing Public Affairs
3/9/2011 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Team Holloman members of all religious backgrounds gathered to join in prayer and celebration during the National Prayer Luncheon at the Enlisted Club March 4.
The yearly observation, held all over the nation, celebrates each individual's right to worship as they please.
"It's an amazing thing that we can gather here and are able to celebrate the free exercise of religion," said Col. David Krumm, 49th Wing commander, during the event. "Who better to do it with than those who defend that right for all Americans?"
This year, more than 200 Team Holloman members had the opportunity to hear first-hand from the Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson, who was the guest speaker of the luncheon.
The event also featured music by the 62nd Army Band out of Ft. Bliss, Texas, a performance by the Chapel's Protestant Praise Team and after lunch was served, a reading of passages from the Bible, the Torah and the Quran.
"The goal of the National Prayer Luncheon was to highlight the religious diversity within the Air Force," said Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Boyd, 49th Wing Protestant chaplain and event organizer. "Our Constitution grants us all the right to practice our religion freely. Even though we may not agree with each other, we can still treat each other with respect."
Later, when Chaplain Richardson took to the stage, the audience appeared captivated as they listened to his stories which showcased "hope in the presence of despair; strength in the presence of weakness; and courage in the time of trouble."
He related many historical and Biblical stories to the courage servicemembers in today's military often find by holding on to their faith and how important that can be when things get difficult.
"As a chaplain, I've learned when people are in trouble they tend to do one of four things: they check out, pig out, drop out or call out," said Chaplain Richardson.
He explained that checking out can involve drugs, alcohol, even video games. To pig out is to find comfort in eating or overeating ... "and they usually do it with chocolate," he joked.
Dropping out is going absent without leave -- either physically or emotionally -- better known in the military as going "AWOL."
"There are people you know in your family or on your base who just drop out. They are still there but they're AWOL," said Chaplain Richardson. "They go AWOL from their families, from their kids, from their marriage and, tragically, this is true folks, you know it is -- there are some who go AWOL from life itself."
The crowd silenced and the chaplain told the story of an Airman who, several years ago, walked into his office and explained that he had taken a bottle of pills. He recalled the Airman's words.
"'I figure I'm dying, I can feel it already and as I was walking along the sidewalk, I thought who would I most like to die with? I want to die with Chaplain Richardson. So if you don't mind, I'll sit in this chair and die here,'" he said. "What he didn't know -- that even though I look like a wimp, I'm not. I put him in a fireman's carry and I took off running."
The chaplain said he dropped the Airman off on the floor of the medical facility, and without breaking chaplain confidentiality, said "I'm making a referral!"
The next day, when he visited the young Airman in the hospital, he held his hand and Chaplain Richardson said that was the moment when instead of checking out, pigging out or dropping out, he called out.
"He called out to Almighty God and when he called out to God, God touched his life and gave him 100,000 reasons to live," said Chaplain Richardson. "Today he is doing wonderfully because now, at last, he has a foundation for his life to stand on."
This was one of the many personal anecdotes the Chief of Chaplains used before asking each person in attendance to turn to their faith in times of trouble.
"Do you have burdens that are too heavy to bear? Have you been discouraged rather than encouraged? Is your life's GPS out of whack and you just don't know which way you're going?" he asked the crowd.
"(Number one) Hold on to your faith and don't you ever let go of your faith," Chaplain Richardson continued. "Number two: Hope in the Lord. Hope will keep you going. Number three: if you get yourself in trouble or are overwhelmed ... and you just can't take anymore, turn and run into the arms of God. He will be your refuge."
After a standing ovation from the crowd -- some of them teary-eyed, emotionally touched by the speaker's words -- many members remarked on the speech and the power of the prayer luncheon, regardless of which religion they practice.
"The speaker was excellent, one of the best I've ever heard," said Rachel Williams, wife of Staff Sgt. Christopher Williams, 49th Contracting Squadron. "I like that they included three major religions. Being a minority faith, it is very important to us that the minority faiths were represented like this."
Another attendee agreed, saying that is what the National Prayer Luncheon is all about.
"Having a different religion doesn't necessarily mean you have a different outlook or different thoughts," said Staff Sgt. Evren Kozanlioglu, 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron."There are all different types of religion in the Air Force, and we are still able to work together for a common goal."