Milwaukee Chaplain Receives Air Force Medal for Deployed Actions
By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze, 128th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published October 02, 2011
MILWAUKEE -- All work has its share of rigor. Working while deployed bears its additional set of burdens that exist on overseas bases and beyond their protective walls. For a military chaplain, the burdens of the group become the concerns of the moment.
While deployed in the spring of 2010 as the senior Catholic chaplain for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Lt. Col. Christopher Myers, a chaplain with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, received his first oak leaf cluster for an Air Force Commendation Medal on Saturday, October 1, 2011.
The Air Force Commendation Medal was awarded to reflect Chaplain Myers' energetic passion for ministry and community, which supported two Catholic communities and three congregations on the Arabian Peninsula. Furthermore, Chaplain Myers "directed a program responsible for 15 worship services and educational classes a week, with combined weekly attendance of over 400," according to the medal's citation of accomplishments. Since March 24, 1958, the Air Force Commendation Medal has been awarded to Airmen who have meritoriously distinguished themselves through their actions and service.
Regarding the challenges of being a deployed chaplain, Myers said, "I think, for me, one of the biggest challenges [of being deployed] was that there are so many people coming and going. The challenge is to not just focus on permanent party members, to not get stuck in a rut."
Myers said he led a weekly religious education class during his deployment, and therein he asked attendees to examine their values and morals, to think about their principles, and to recognize distorted truths. Myers said his class members received daily emails that he wrote containing news information that showed the importance of living a virtuous life.
Virtue stood, and stands, as the center of Myers' past and ongoing religious education classes.
"A virtue is the part of the soul that hungers to be identified with God," Myers said. "The more we practice virtue, the more peace and the more joy we enjoy in our own lives. Virtue is purely a gift from God; we don't produce it."
Though Myers most frequently talked with permanent party members at his deployed location--those members who were stationed there for the duration of their deployment--he said transitional service members would attend his class on their way to Iraq or Afghanistan or on their way back to the United States. His communications with the service members also allowed him to prevent two suicide cases and to ensure the burdened service members received the medical care they needed, according to Myers' medal citation.
"It [was] important for me to . . . open the door so [the wounded service members] can express themselves in one-on-one counseling," he said. "It was important to tell them that they'll never make sense of [what has happened], and that's okay. No matter how much reasoning someone has, they're dealing with an irrational situation."