An Exhibit Honoring the Service and Heroism of U. S. Military Chaplains In World Wars I & II
We have a very special display coming to the museum that honors a part of the military that is overlooked by many, but plays an important role in the lives of our service members. The exhibit, “Faith and Courage,” recognizes the contributions of U.S. Military Chaplains. According to the Department of Defense, the purpose of chaplains is to “accommodate religious needs, to provide religious and pastoral care, and to advise commanders on the complexities of religion with regard to its personnel and mission, as appropriate. As military members, chaplains are uniquely positioned to assist Service members, their families, and other authorized personnel with the challenges of military service as advocates of religious, moral, and spiritual well being and resiliency.”
In the words of President Harry S. Truman, “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” This exhibit honors these exceptional individuals and attempts to extend the value of their service and sacrifice by keeping their memories alive as an example for later generations.
This presentation of stories of Chaplain Heroism includes text and photographs from World Wars I & II. Much of the information was collected with the help of the Army Chaplain Museum and the Navy Chaplain Archives, and artifacts were collected from all over the world.
“Faith and Courage,” the exhibit at Washington National Cathedral for the 2004 opening of the World War II Memorial, was an expansion of the WWII section of this exhibit. The opening service for the dedication of the memorial was held at the cathedral with the chiefs of all the U. S. Military Chaplain Corps in attendance. The exhibit has received awards and recognition from the Tennessee Association of Museums, the Army Chaplain Corps, and Navy Chaplain Corps Chiefs of Chaplains.
“Faith and Courage” has also been featured at the Celebrate Freedom Festival in Pigeon Forge, TN; the American Museum of Science & Energy in Oak Ridge, TN; the Army Chaplain Corps at Fort Bragg, NC; the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge, TN; the 35th Anniversary Salute to Veterans at the Parthenon in Nashville, TN; and many other public venues. The exhibit is based at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville. “Faith and Courage” was developed and designed by Tom Walker, former exhibit designer for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, TN.
I asked Tom why it was important to have a display on chaplains and he replied, “I’ve been involved in the design & development of all kinds of exhibits for nearly 30 years, including science, art, culture, history, military, and kids’ exhibits. I had never really thought about military chaplains until I was sitting in church one morning in September of 2000. The idea hit me out of the blue, like a ton of bricks. By the end of the service I knew what needed to be done.
“The experience of developing ‘Faith and Courage’ over the years has been full of things that could only be described as miracles. Apparently the man upstairs wanted a chaplain exhibit and paved the way for it to happen time after time — things happened against astronomical odds and couldn’t reasonably be explained away as coincidence. You could say that I’m only following orders from the top. I should probably record the details of some of these events at some point — they truly are astounding.” Perhaps Tom will share some of these astounding details while he is here. “Faith and Courage” will be on display until approximately July 31; so please don’t miss out on this wonderful display.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans' Museum