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Courage in Trouble
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson, Air Force chief of chaplains, speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Minuteman Club on Feb. 25. Chaplain Richardson’s inspiring message was called “Courage in Trouble.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Wyatt)
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Another way of looking at courage

Posted 3/4/2011   Updated 3/4/2011 Email story   Print story


by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

3/4/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- "Have you heard the one about the priest, the rabbi and the minister?" said Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson, the U.S. Air Force's chief of chaplains, when he first stepped on the stage during the National Prayer Breakfast held in the Minuteman Club's ballroom on Feb. 25.

But the punch line to the old joke lead-in never came. Instead, Chaplain Richardson told the audience a story about four chaplains who showed unwavering courage during World War II.

In 1943, a priest, rabbi, Methodist minister and Presbyterian minister were aboard the USS Dorchester, along with many other military members, when Germans torpedoed the ship. It started sinking fast, so the chaplains began handing out life vests.

After all the life vests were distributed, many still did not have one, so each of the chaplains gave away their own.

As the ship was about to sink, the chaplains linked arms, climbed to the top of the bow and shouted to the men floating in the water.

"Trust God! Hold on to your faith," they said. "Someone will be here to save you soon."

And the four chaplains began to sing hymns as the USS Dorchester submerged under water.

"Where do you find courage like that?" Chaplain Richardson asked the audience. "Those four chaplains truly embodied the core value of 'Service Before Self' on that day."

Chaplain Richardson's message to the audience during this annual event was not about standing firm in times of trouble, but finding refuge when things get tough.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble," he said, quoting the first verse in Psalms 46.

The chaplain put this particular verse in context as he explained how it was written after the Assyrians, a violent army, tried to attack the city of Jerusalem. Instead of running away, the people in the city turned to God.

Chaplain Richardson cited that in times of trouble, many people check out, pig out, drop out or call out.

"When times are tough, some people may turn to drugs or alcohol," he said. "Others may turn to video games. As they get further and further into the games, they don't escape their problems. They're still there."

Others pig out and turn to food, while some people drop out, he said.

"Some people go AWOL [absent without leave]," said Chaplain Richardson. "They go AWOL, emotionally, from friends, family and from life."

But, the most important thing people can do in times of trouble is to call out, he said.

The chaplain told the crowd a story about an Airman that came to his room one time and told him he had just taken 15 pills, so he would probably die soon.

"He said he thought about who he would like to die with and he thought he would like to die with the chaplain," said Chaplain Richardson. "I threw him over my shoulders and rushed him to the hospital where he had his stomach pumped...He lived."

The Airman called out, but almost too late. After that day, however, the Airman learned he had a reason to live. He found that a lot of people cared about him and the next time he was in trouble, he could call out for help.

Hanscom's National Prayer Breakfast observation brought together people of differing faiths. Participation came from Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and demonstrated the ability for people to come together and share in meaningful ways.

Chaplain Richardson gave three parting points during his message at the National Prayer Breakfast, a tradition that has been going on informally throughout the nation since the late 1940s.

"Hold on to your hope, hold tight to your faith and, when in trouble, turn and run into the arms of God."

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