Army Chaplain Corps Anniversary
The United States Army Chaplain Corps is a unique part of American military tradition. Said to be among the smallest (if not THE smallest) unit in the U.S. Army, the Chaplain Corps predates Independence Day and since this unit began, chaplains have served in every American conflict.
Army Chaplain Corps anniversary will be on Thursday, July 29, 2021.
The Anniversary of the Army Chaplain Corps
The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps celebrates its birthday each year on July 29th, the day it was authorized by the Continental Congress. There are commemorative gatherings across the globe held by Army Chaplains, Chaplain Assistants, and other support troops to observe the birthday of the Corps.
These events reaffirm the Army Chaplain Corps’ commitment to helping, mentoring, counseling, and teaching soldiers. July 29th is celebrated everywhere from Washington D.C. to the most forward deployed locations around the globe.
A Brief History Of The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps
In 1775, The Continental Congress authorized the creation of an Army Chaplain Corps, providing one chaplain for each regiment. At the time, those who served as Army Chaplains were paid approximately $20 a month and had no required military uniform. The role would evolve and change over time, especially where multi-faith operations are concerned.
The Corps did not begin as the pluralistic operation it is today, but over time Catholic chaplains were added, and later African American and Jewish chaplains. These additions happened prior to or during the Civil War, but it wouldn’t be until 1979 for women to be allowed to accept commissions as Army Chaplains.
What Is The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps?
The Army Chaplains Corps offer soldiers spiritual guidance, counseling, advice, and mentoring in peace and wartime by employing trained clergy members who have had both spiritual and classroom-type training and have passed Army training requirements in non-combatant soldier skills.
Chaplains are expected to accompany troops on and off the battlefield, providing what the Army calls “free exercise of religion in a pluralistic setting”.
Army chaplains must be ordained, have appropriate undergraduate and graduate degrees, and must also go through Army training above and beyond college work. But not all the people who work in the Army Chaplain Corps are ordained, nor do all who serve in the Corps serve as military chaplains.
An Army Chaplain is an officer, but an Army Chaplain Assistant may be an enlisted member who does not hold a degree or ecclesiastical training before she or he joins the service.
The Origin Of “Chaplain”
The word “chaplain” is said to have its’ origin in the story of St. Martin of Tours, who while a conscript in the Roman army (circa 334 A.D.) is said to have cut his cape (known as a cappa in Latin) in half to share with a homeless person. This humanitarian act is supposed to have occurred while he served as a Roman soldier before his 18th birthday.
The story goes that following the cloak-cutting incident Martin of Tours had a divine vision and woke to find his cloak was whole again. St. Martin of Tours would be baptized into the Christian faith, become a monk, and later a bishop.
Since St. Martin of Tours was associated with military service, when his cloak began to be thought of as a holy relic, it would be carried into battle and used to swear oaths upon. The cloak or cappa would be placed in a royal treasury later given by Charlemagne to a group of monks circa 799 A.D.
A priest responsible for caring for this relic who would be come to known as a cappellanu. Over time any priest serving troops would become known as cappellani. In French, this is translated as chapelains. From there we get “chaplain” in English.