Spiritual Fitness unites Colorado National Guard members

2018 National Day of Prayer

Photo By Staff Sgt. Joseph Vonnida | Southeast Christian Church Lead Teaching Pastor Phil Vaughan (right) and Colorado… read more

The U.S. military places a high value on the rights of its Soldiers to observe their respective religion or to observe no religion at all. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for this free exercise of religion.

“The member’s heart, spirit, and soul are everything,” U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) David Nagel, full-time state unit support chaplain for the Colorado National Guard, said. “Everyone has a lens through which he or she views and interprets the world, whether that lens is a religious faith, a belief system, a world view, or general outlook on life … these help shape a person’s spiritual fitness.”

The National Day of Prayer is one opportunity to provide for the free exercise of religion. Former President Harry S. Truman established the National Day of Prayer. It is an annual observance on the first Thursday in May.

The National Day of Prayer is non-partisan, endorses neither religion nor service and does not advertise any religious events.

“Events like National Day of Prayer remind us of our need for God’s strength, bring us together as a family, instill community and a greater sense of belonging to our military members,” Nagel said. “General Marshall once said, ‘unless the soldier’s soul sustains them, they cannot be relied on and will fail them self, their commander, and their country, in the end. It is not enough to fight. It is the spirit that wins the victory.”

Commanders may host unit-level or installation-level observances, and it is the job of chaplains to advise commanders on appropriate ways to conduct these observances. National Guard chaplains can also host these observances for the National Day of Prayer and other spiritual development opportunities.

For the 2018 National Day of Prayer observance, Nagel and his chaplain support team hosted the third annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast at Joint Forces Headquarters, Centennial, Colorado. Pastor Phil Vaughan, lead teaching pastor, Southeast Christian Church, Centennial, Colorado spoke at this year’s spiritual fitness event, by invitation of the ministry team. His message was about looking outside of yourself.

“We are all part of a larger whole; in one sense, the Colorado National Guard family. As people, we don’t all necessarily believe the same things, but we do care about each other,” Nagel said. “As CONG members we have a deep sense of belief in what we’re doing and the love for our brothers and sisters, in other words, our support networks and communities.”

Nagel said that, in the National Guard, more so than active duty, access to unit members can be difficult due to geographical dispersion and training dates spread- across the calendar. This challenges unit ministry teams to overcome this constraint to increase their plan’s effectiveness.

Ministry teams prepare annual commander master religious plans, which outline how to conduct ministry throughout the year. Units may use a message board or newsletters to communicate the plan; and unit ministry teams circulate, on training dates, throughout a command to accommodate their members’ training schedules and locations.

“We try to build a community that identifies with military values and citizenship of Colorado,” CONG Trauma Support and Master Religious Affairs Non-commissioned Officer U.S. Army Master Sgt. Keith Byers said.

Spirituality is one of the Five Dimensions of Strength under the umbrella of the Army Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program. This key component helps members focus their core beliefs to understand and find their identity, purpose, and sense of connection.

“Spirituality is unique to each individual and how they choose to express it will take on many different forms,” Nagel said. “Once your identity and purpose are refined, you are more able to weather any storm life throws your direction.”

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