By Chaplain James W. Longe, 439th Airlift Wing, Chaplain
/ Published June 02, 2015
Chaplain Longe poses with a group of children during the All Saints Celebration held at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Chaplain Longe prepares for a baptism while deployed to Northern Italy.
Chaplain Longe performs baptism while deployed to Italy.
It is said that most large problems require a simple solution. I believe this to be
true, as did my grandparents. I’m completing a seven-month tour in northern
Italy. As one can imagine, going from a stateside Reserve Wing to an overseas
active-duty base has required a tremendous reality-shift!
What makes this base “active”? For starters,
during the last six weeks, we have sent roughly ten percent of our military
personnel to foreign installations within central Africa, Eastern Europe and the
Middle East. Of course we don’t want or expect Airmen to grumble when given a
“real world” opportunity to hone and highlight their expertise, yet grumble we
sometimes do. Occasionally, we do worse. That’s when I have the opportunity to
be a healing and positive force.
Contrary to views held by some, chaplains
remain an essential thread within the fabric of our Armed Forces; this is where
we have nobly served in the past, and this is where we need to nobly serve in
the future. Chaplains ensure that no Uniformed or DoD personnel is denied their
Constitutional right to sincerely practice their faith, and in return, together
we ensure Chaplains are empowered by the same basic act of human dignity.
Very well, but what can a chaplain offer the
average person during the ordinary events of life? Thanks be to God, many good things! For example: when invited, we can
offer keys to the riddles of life. More concretely, on a daily basis, we offer fellowship
to the lonely; strength to the weak; normalcy toward the deployed; hope to the
disillusioned; wisdom to the curious; fun to the overworked; ear to the
downcast; mouthpiece for the minority; protection for the wounded; correction for
the misguided; and most important, friendship toward all . . . .
my particular role? As a Catholic priest, I journey with those who journey with
me, on a daily basis, with all the powers, graces and sacraments of the Church.
Since my arrival, I have created avenues for sacred remembrance of our deceased
loved ones (November). I have led Advent days of reflection as well as joyous Christmas
Masses (December). I have guided a spiritual pilgrimage to western France,
after hosting visiting clergy (January). I celebrated Services on Ash Wednesday
for hundreds, then shared simple bread and soup with a handful (February). I
brought feisty teenagers into the Sacrament of Confirmation (March), before
leading dynamic Easter Masses and touching adult and child baptisms (April). Finally,
before my departure, I will ensure our 24 second-graders are fully prepared
for their memorable First Holy Communion (Mother’s Day Weekend).
All this, of course, is in addition to my daily
responsibilities as an Airman and Officer. So life remains good, and I remain
grateful to God and the United States Air Force for making it so!