For George Jones of Hendersonville, N.C., the dedication of the new U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Memorial at Fort Jackson was more than a nice gesture to honor the corps' fallen members. It was personal.
"I knew some of the men on that wall," the 90-year-old former World War II chaplain said, sitting in front of the memorial that carries the names of 294 Army chaplains and chaplain assistants killed since the Revolutionary War, 118 of them from World War II. "We did what we needed to do at that juncture of history."
The $250,000, 2,500-square-foot memorial also contains a manicured lawn, garden and a fountain, as well as a statue of a chaplain comforting an agonized soldier. And while there are other memorials to individual or groups of chaplains around the globe, this memorial is the only one to include chaplains and chaplain assistants together, said U.S. Army Chaplain Center & School commandant Col. David Smartt. Fort Jackson trains all chaplains for the U.S. military.
"The names on the wall will remind us of the great price of bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God," Smartt said.
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Since July 29, 1775, approximately 25,000 Army chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million soldiers and their families. Since the Civil War, all have been volunteers, said school historian John Brinsfield.
Army chaplains and chaplain assistants have ministered at military installations and with deployed combat units, at military schools and military hospitals.
Throughout the 236 years, Army chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements, according to the military.
Almost 14 percent of all Army chaplains since the Civil War have received battlefield decorations. Of these, six were awarded the Medal of Honor and 27 received the Distinguished Service Cross for valorous service beyond the call of duty.
Among the notables listed on the wall are:
Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, said the memorial, in addition to being a hallowed place of reflection, will be a reminder to students of the seriousness and importance of their service.
"This gives them the opportunity to hear the sacred stories," he said. "And it gives us the opportunity to show where we have been and where we are going."