POMEROY, Ohio — “We are here to honor those who have died in service to our country, death does not discriminate,” said Captain Chip Bennett, addressing the crowd gathered on Monday for a Memorial Day ceremony on the levee in Pomeroy.
Captain Bennett is a U.S. Army Chaplin, currently serving in the West Virginia National Guard as Battalion Chaplin for the 1092nd Engineers. Bennett is also pastor of the Bellemead United Methodist Church in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
Having served for 21 years, Bennett spoke of the changing and evolving setting of the United States military, the diversity of troops, and of the camaraderie forged in military service.
Bennett said that although he serves as a Christian Chaplin, he is Chaplin to all troops, regardless of their beliefs.
“Lots of the troops are from other faiths, and I assure them that, regardless of your beliefs, I am their Chaplin.”
He said he has come to appreciate the great diversity in the military, but the differences fade when you put on the uniform. He said that people have answered the call to service since the Revolutionary War, and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today.
“Camaraderie is forged in military service and in combat. Divisiveness is deep within our country, and threatens our way of life much more than foreign enemies,” he continued. “I believe the foundation laid by those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice will allow us to weather the storms we are currently facing.
“They did it for everyone, for people who didn’t look like them, who didn’t think like them. They are an example for us to live lives of selfless service to all people. A way to honor them is by living up to the highest ideals of our country, for all people.”
He compared the pursuit of holiness for Christians with striving to live up to the ideas the United States was founded on.
“The pursuit of holiness is a lifelong endeavor for Christians, we must be continually growing. We (our country) are not perfect, but we should be striving to grown and improve the ideas our country was founded on — ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’”
He concluded that those who sacrificed their lives are an example for us to live lives of selfless service to all people, and that we honor them by living up to the highest ideas of our country for all people.
American Legion Post 39 organized the ceremony, with Post member George Hoffman as master of ceremonies. The service began and concluded with prayer by Post Chaplin Jerry Fredrick, and included the reading of “In Flanders Fields” and “The Old Ragged Flag”, and the laying of a wreath in the Ohio River to honor Navy and Coast Guard members who have died in service.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.