Chaplain visits Hanscom, offers messages on spiritual wellness, divine guidance

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
"Why am I here? Is there a purpose to my life? Is there a life beyond this life?" 

These may be difficult questions to ponder, but these are the questions that deployed troops muse about during the long and monotonous days of deployments, said Air Force Deputy Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Cecil R. Richardson during an interview here March 8. 

"You think about these things when you're working 16-hour days, 7 days a week and then you turn your heart to God," Chaplain Richardson said. 

Chaplain Richardson visited Hanscom to speak at the base's National Prayer Luncheon. 

The chaplain shared his thoughts on the importance of spiritual wellness for all members of the military community -- whether they are serving at their home station or in a deployed location -- during an interview before addressing the crowd of approximately 175 people. 

"[When we are deployed] we get away from MTV and away from all the noise in our lives, and after a while we start thinking about what's important -- our spouse, kids, family, the progression of life, life itself and then we think about God," he said. "Whereas when we were stateside, we are often so caught up in stuff that we never took the time to think about the ultimate things like purpose." 

The chaplain stressed, however, that those who don't deploy "need spiritual 'under-girding' just as much" as those who deploy. 

"Spiritual wellness is that something within us that keeps us going, that gives us focus in life. It gives us purpose and meaning," Chaplain Richardson said. 

"In a sense, spiritual wellness is closely tied to the word 'hope,' he said. "A lot of people confuse faith and hope. Faith is person centered -- you have faith in a person or God and it is for the present. Hope is future oriented. Hope says 'I have a future, my tomorrow looks even better than today.'" 

The Prayer Luncheon's theme was "Lord, Guard and Guide" and Chaplain Richardson discussed those moments in life when one comes to a point and seeks guidance from a higher power. 

The chaplain told the luncheon's audience of personal experiences when he felt God's guidance. While he was serving in the Air Force as an interpreter for the National Security Agency after enlisting in 1970, he felt called upon to change his course. 

After coming "to the Lord as a two-striper" he decided not to re-enlist, but rather attend college and obtain his undergraduate and Master of Divinity degrees. 

He told the audience how God guided his life through his college years, including the period he spent working the late shift as a gas station attendant with a Baptist minister, who influenced his desire to become a military chaplain. 

Chaplain Richardson described the "miraculous way God just kicked the doors wide open for me to become a chaplain. 

"I've had the privilege of a not only a wonderful ministry, by making little chapels into big chapels, but I've also had the privilege to cheer on the chaplains and the chaplain's assistants through the years," he said. "What a gift it is to have these people who want to devote their lives to making the chaplain ministry successful." 

Part of the mission of chaplains, Chaplain Richardson said, is to minister to personnel belonging to various faith groups. 

"America is perhaps one of the most religious nations on earth, perhaps well over 90 percent [of Americans] believe in God, and they don't quit believing in God when they come into the military," he said. 

"The National Prayer Luncheon is a time to pray -- for ourselves, the nation and the military, he said. "But it's also a time for us to pause and remind ourselves that although we are neutral concerning religion, we as a nation are not neutral concerning God. Although we come from different faith traditions, we believe in God." 

Chaplain Richardson said religion can take on an important role in the lives of military personnel. 

"Our profession goes hand in hand with the realization that we could potentially be called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice, but we also realize that we're dealing with dangerous things all the time. We're always called upon by something that is above and beyond ourselves -- both individually and corporately," he said. 

After serving more than 30 years in the Air Force and on multiple deployments, the chaplain said he and his wife "could not possibly comprehend a better life" than they've had in the military. When he retires, which he doesn't plan to do any time soon, he said he will use the skills he's developed while serving as an Air Force chaplain in the civilian world. 

Chaplain Richardson, the father of three sons and grandfather of three grandsons, said he will continue to focus on making "little congregations into big congregations." 

In addition, he has passed his passion for ministry to his eldest son, who is also a chaplain and will become the Air Force Academy's Cadet's Chaplain this summer. 

Together the chaplains have the distinction of being the only father and son to serve as active-duty chaplains at the same time. 

"It's easier to see when looking back on life -- to see how God has guided me," Chaplain Richardson said. 

He also said he tries to share this sense of being guided by God to others through his chaplain duties and ministry. 

"I really believe in using humor, witticisms, illustrations and personal experiences not just to be entertaining, but because I have a message, a passionate message that I really want people to get and it doesn't make a difference what I say if they don't listen," he said.