Philippine Sea -- “The hope of this day is that the darkness of life has been overcome,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Weatherwax, command chaplain of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, in front of a congregation of Marines and Sailors aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on Easter Sunday April 12, 2020. During the preceding Holy Week, Marines and Sailors had the opportunity to practice their religious and spiritual beliefs with ministry and support from Navy chaplains. Service members are able to maintain a strong spiritual foundation and personal growth while forward deployed, building resiliency and practicing their faith, according to Weatherwax.
During Holy Week, service members celebrated Protestant, Catholic, and other faith services of their choosing leading to Easter Sunday. Chaplains ministered, provided baptisms, and offered service members opportunities to send special recorded voice messages to loved ones while forward deployed. With guidance and support from chaplains, Marines and Sailors aboard the USS America empowered themselves through their personal faith, values, and moral living.
“Spiritual Fitness is essential to a Sailor and Marine’s well-being,” said Cmdr. Mathew Weems, command chaplain of USS America. “Spiritual fitness goes beyond religious preference to one’s sense of self, identity, values and beliefs, and environment.”
The Navy Chaplain Corps is comprised of dedicated officers and Sailors who serve the Navy, Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard globally. Chaplains build readiness, strengthen spiritual well-being, and confidentially advise on faith and personal matters to anyone seeking guidance. Comprised of over 800 chaplains in over 100 different faith groups, the Navy Chaplain Corps seeks to refine the elements of a spiritually complete service member through religious faith, core values, and morality. These core elements when applied thoroughly, offer Marines and Sailors full spectrum of a not only physically and mentally capable, but spiritually ready as well.
“Chaplain services provide a way to integrate the whole person concept of mind, body, and spirit to help people understand their story, pointing them in the right direction so they can accomplish the mission,” said Weems. “We’re a 100 percent confidential outlet to help people understand who they are and why they matter.”
Holy Week services and especially Easter Sunday were highly attended religious services by various Marines and Sailors with support from chaplains, but they were not the only ministry chaplains provided. As special advisers to commanders, chaplains offer care for all personnel regardless of faith, perspective and belief to build stronger service members.
America, part of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st MEU team, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.