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Chaplains making a difference in D.C.

Assemblies of God military chaplains have been playing a key role in the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following September 11’s terrorist attack. Chaplain Col. Cecil R. Richardson is the command chaplain for Air Combat Command out of Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., and has overseen the assignment of chaplains at the Pentagon and other sites in the wake of the attacks. Richardson is no stranger to terrorist attacks — he was on duty in Nairobi, Kenya, when the American Embassy was bombed in 1998.

Chaplain Col. Cecil R. Richardson

Richardson has command of more than 500 chaplains from all denominations at 24 military bases, including some overseas. “We are doing several different things all at the same time right now, including working at the crisis action tents outside the [Pentagon] crash scene, meeting with and providing grief counseling for the families and caregivers, and praying with the workers,” Richardson said shortly after the attacks. He also sent teams of chaplains to assist in New York City.

At the Pentagon, most of the efforts of the chaplains have been focused on supporting the workers and honoring the dead as bodies are recovered from the crash site. “Our chaplains are praying over [workers] and even holding little services at the scene as the dead are removed,” Richardson says. Praying for the recovery workers has been a large part of their jobs. “They burn out fast,” he says. “Many of the body handlers tend to be very young, and most have never seen a dead body before, let alone carnage — and that is what they are facing out there. Many of these workers have lost people they know, and the chaplains are there to pray with them and counsel them.”

Chaplains have been helping to support family members who have lost loved ones.

“The most common part of our job is answering the question that many of these people are asking,” Richardson says. “They want to know ‘Why?’ … What we are trying to help people understand is that God created people with free will, and what we are seeing now are the results of the abuse of that free will. God is good, He loves them and He wants to bring peace to them.”

— Judi Murphy, Assemblies of God Office of Public Relations

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