Imagine serving 150-300 people at once as a chaplain in a waiting area—at a restricted airport gate. And the people are military personnel being deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. Rev Steve Colladay knows what that is like.
When he moved to Texas, he searched for a way to give back to his new community and chaplain work, especially to the military, filled that need. While not a veteran himself due to a physical deferment, Steve has the utmost respect for those who serve in the military and he has a background in counseling.
Steve served four years as a chaplain at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport which, along with Atlanta, was one of the two collection points for military personnel being transported overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Service has a two-way flow of being offered and received. Sometimes Steve would initiate conversation, and sometimes he had to wait for someone to approach him. Of those who opened up to Steve, many were concerned about their families left behind, especially their children. “I was privileged to support our men and women in service. It was a sacred trust,” says Steve.
He was a presence as the soldiers were sent off and was often there to welcome them back home. He also was there to meet the caskets of those who had fallen in combat. On a returning military flight’s approach to the gate, fire hoses spraying from each side would form an arch of water, called the Arc of Affection, which the plane would drive through.
At deployment time, Steve handed out prayer cards in the waiting area with the Prayer for Protection on them. These cards had space for prayer requests and 10-15% of the cards were returned to him with prayer requests as the soldiers boarded. Steve stood at the beginning of the airplane walkway, shaking each one’s hand as they boarded, saying, “God bless you. Have a good tour.” He was the last civilian stateside to have contact with the soldiers. Once everyone was boarded, Steve led a prayer, closing with the Prayer for Protection.
One of the officers once told him that he was deeply touched by Steve’s ministering. Steve said that it was very powerful to see a plane full of soldiers with their heads bowed in prayer.
Military chaplaincy is not an easy form of service, but it touched Steve at depth to be able to support those being deployed and those returning. The blessings flowed both ways.