LOCAL CHAPTERS PROVIDE FELLOWSHIP
AMONG UMT RETIREES BETWEEN REUNIONS
As new chapters of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Association (USACCRA) emerge, retired chaplains, chaplain assistants, directors of religious education, and spouses of each are finding there are often more of their kindred spirits in their local areas than they realized.
When I retired to Alabama near where Fort McClellan had been, I became aware that there were eight retired army chaplains living near here. We got together for a Dutch-treat luncheon, and that was all it took to start what has become a chapter of USACCRA. The fellowship was so simple and enriching that all of us wanted to meet again. We agreed to meet about once every three months. That was 9 years ago.
There have been some changes in the group over these years. Three of our chaplains and one spouse have entered their eternal rest. Others involved in chaplaincy in some way have joined our fellowship. Very few of us were ever assigned together. But we learned that we often have common experiences in different locations, can speak a language that no one else understands, and we share the issues of adjusting to civilian life. Bonds emerge quickly.
Similar groups are forming around the country. It is just that easy. All that is required is for one person to take the initiative to contact people in the area, identify a place to meet, make the reservation, and voila! You have it! Most people have e-mail now, so it doesn’t even cost much at all to keep the process going. Undoubtedly, some who attend the first meeting will know of someone unknown before, making the circle widen over time.
The goal of the local chapters is simply to implement the mission of USACCRA at the local grass roots level. That mission is:
• Celebrate and continue the legacy of the U.S. Army Chaplaincy.
• Publicize the work of the Army Chaplaincy.
• Honor the memory of deceased members of the Regiment.
• Assist Soldiers and their Families – especially the Wounded Warriors.
• Provide recognition for members of the Corps who demonstrate excellent achievement.
• Support the Army Chaplain Museum.
A group has been meeting in San Antonio for years with leadership provided primarily by the spouses. Recently, chapters have begun in Lansing, Michigan, D.C., Atlanta, and Fort Benning. Keeping in mind that National Guard and Army Reserve UMTs are also candidates for membership, efforts have been made also in Ohio, Illinois, and Arizona. It is possible that others have formed without my knowledge. Leadership is being sought to start chapters near other posts and any area where several UMT members reside.
An advantage of centering around army posts is that, with the support of the Garrison Chaplain, active duty UMT members can participate. This process creates an alliance between active, reserve components, and retired that strengthens everyone.
I encourage you to volunteer leadership in starting a chapter wherever you live. Contact me by e-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), and I will send you the names of people we have on file in your area and a copy of the information brochure. You can carry the ball from that point. If we need to talk, e-mail me with your phone number, and I will give you a call.
If you have enjoyed a biennial reunion, you will find that attending a local chapter meeting is like a mini-reunion. And you can enjoy it regularly at very little expense. We just encourage those who attend the local chapter meetings also to join the organization. The brochure provides the instructions for doing that.
Try it. You’ll like it!
–Thomas R. Smith
Vice President for Local Chapters