Every military post or base had a PX, Commissary, Hospital or Clinic, Library, Theater—and a chapel.
“I’m going to the chapel, and I’m gonna get married”
My first experience at a military chapel was when I was 18 months old at Shiroi AFB, Japan. My parents took me every Sunday, and when I was two, they enrolled me in Sunday school.
I was baptized as a child at Chapel 3, Keesler AFB. Some years later I married my first husband in the same chapel.
My younger son was baptized at Sheppard AFB.
I grew up attending military chapels, particularly when overseas.
The chapel at Keesler AFB Had a tradition of performing Handel’s Messiah every Christmas season, with a reception afterward. We attended every year we were at Keesler (My dad was stationed there 3 different times after each overseas assignment, and my first husband did two assignments there).
Military chapels were particularly important overseas because there were no English speaking church services in some places.
I have many base chapel memories. My mom was the Sunday school superintendent at Keesler when I was 4 and 5 years old. We had a Halloween party at Chapel 3 and the kids wore costumes and bobbed for apples, etc. We went caroling at Christmas with hot chocolate and cookies served afterward at the chapel.
When we were in India, there was no chapel, because there was no base.. it was embassy duty. If you wanted to go to church, you had to go on the economy. There were not many churches because the natives were mostly Hindus. Christians are a small minority of the population there.
The wonderful thing about being stationed in England was that you had a choice to attend chapel on base, or go to church off base, because they spoke our language.
In the Azores, nearly everyone went to the chapel, because the churches off base were Portuguese language services, and most Portuguese are Catholic. Lajes is a small base, and since we were all away from “home” (meaning ‘the States”), on Thanksgiving and Christmas we would have big holiday dinners at the chapel. Everyone contributed food. It was like one big family.
As an adult I was a member of the PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) at several bases we were stationed at. In the Azores, the PWOC baked cookies and made home made lemonade once a month and took them to the women who were in a Portuguese mental asylum. They loved the home made cookies.
The post chapel at Ft Meyer, Arlington, Virginia is an historic and special chapel. The funerals of many of our fallen warriors are held there, because Arlington National Cemetery (where my first husband is buried) is there. It is so inspiring to see the bodies of our fallen being taken in flag draped coffins by horse-drawn caisson to their burial sites.
Speaking of the flag, that is something that is in EVERY military chapel. That is not always true in civilian churches,
When my son graduated from Marine Corps boot camp at Paris Island, I flew from England for his graduation. They had a service on Sunday morning in the chapel. After every hymn and the sermon, the Marine recruits would yell in unison, “OOHRAH!” It was awesome.
I have many happy memories of base and post chapels, both as a child and as a military wife and mom.