Keeping the faith is resiliency tool


If you read Chaplain Richard Given’s introductions to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing Chaplain Corps team in last month’s Beacons, you would have seen my photo and learned that I was a mechanic in the Marine Corps in the 1980s who returned to service as a chaplain assistant after September 11, 2001.

For a good portion of my life I was a very unlikely candidate for becoming a chaplain assistant. For example, I used to get angry when I saw religious fish symbols on cars because I felt as if I were being preached to by a bumper sticker.

So what happened? As is the plot in many movies and books, life was beating me up a bit. But, having been a Marine I learned to take most hardships and life struggles in stride.

Then one day my co-worker and close friend called me up out of the blue and told me that her beautiful son had committed suicide. That is a senseless tragedy that somehow one must grasp.  A short time later, another co-worker lost her son, a passenger of an erratic driver on Grad Night.  Yes, the sudden loss of my friends’ sons had me thinking about life and death. But, it was their funerals that I attended which had a profound impact on me, and helped to drastically change my attitude toward faith.

My two friends had two very different funerals for their sons. One was at a mortuary with no music or prayer that I can remember, just fond memories from young friends sprinkled with odd talk about a fringe culture.

The other funeral took place at a church, had beautiful music, prayer and affectionate memories from the young folks. It was also laced with their culture, but seemed much healthier.

Both moms suffered a sudden and traumatic loss, yet the mom who embraced her faith appeared to me to heal at a drastically different pace, and fare much better than the other mom did.

Although this happened a long time ago, and at the time, I did not understand that I was observing resiliency, the ability to bounce back, I had come to the personal conclusion that faith was a vital component and that perhaps it could even save lives.

There is it, my long and winding path to a career field that is not just about religious freedom, but also about helping to provide tools for resiliency, a listening ear, and the many benefits of having faith.