National Day of Prayer - CH Key wb.jpg

Members of the Fort Drum community observe the National Day of Prayer during a luncheon May 24 inside The Peak ballroom. The Fort Drum Religious Support Office team hosted the event, with Chaplain (Col.) James D. Key, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior command chaplain, as guest speaker. (Photo by Pfc. Samuel Bonney, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

Fort Drum community members observe National Day of Prayer with luncheon, speakers

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 24, 2023) – Chaplain (Col.) James D. Key, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior command chaplain, spoke about the power of prayer during the National Day of Prayer luncheon May 24 inside The Peak ballroom.

He said, as a child, his grandmother’s faith in prayer would have a profound effect on him. The woman they affectionately called “Sweetie Pie” prayed for them every morning before they left for school.

“She wanted to make sure her grandchildren were covered by the power of prayer,” Key said. “Through prayer, she appealed to a higher power and asked God to give protection to all of us. Thanks to Sweetie Pie, my cousins and I learned to include prayer in our daily battle rhythm, and we taught our children to do the same.”

The National Day of Prayer is a nonpartisan event, which was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1952 and called for a broad representation from all religions to pray for the nation. Key said it encourages all Americans, in their own religious traditions and conscience, to pause and turn to God in prayer.

“For many, prayer is an important part of daily life,” he said. “It offers a deep connection to our overall spiritual wellness and mental readiness, nurturing our relationships and our faith.”

Key spoke about his former professor, the Reverend Dr. Evans Crawford, who taught him to never underestimate the power of prayer. The late educator and theologian would always return students’ greetings with the words “I pray, and I count my blessings.”

“This baffled my mind,” Key said. “When I should have been concentrating on my studies, I was consumed with why he always responds that way. Surely, he’s not always counting his blessings.”

Much later, when Key was experiencing despair, those words returned to him.

“The only thing I could think about doing was praying, as my Sweetie Pie taught me to do when I was young,” he said. “And as I prayed, the words of Dr. Crawford began to invade my soul – I count blessings. When the world is tough and you are having one of those days – I count blessings. When there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide – I pray, and I count blessings.”

He said relief and gratitude washed over him with those words and gave him peace.

“Finally, the words of Dr. Crawford made sense,” he said. “He knew, one day, our world was going to turn upside down. And in that moment, he wanted us to know that prayer plus counting your blessings equals relief.”

Key asked community members to take the same advice that Dr. Crawford gave his students.

“When your world turns upside down, instead of relying on your own strength, pray and count your blessings,” he said. “When your bad days are too long and your good days are not long enough, pray and count your blessings. And remember, a setback is nothing but a setup for a comeback. And a stumble is not a fall. But if you fall, make sure you land on your back because if you can look up, you can get up.”

The Fort Drum Religious Support Office team hosted the luncheon, which included individual prayers for the nation, the military, places of worship and family, and music by the 10th Mountain Division Band.

Sgt. 1st Class Carlton Canteen, RSO noncommissioned officer in charge, described the event as a celebration of prayer and fellowship.

“It’s a time for everyone to come together, whatever your faith tradition is, and be thankful and give thanks as a community,” he said. “For me, prayer is everything. Prayer is power. It’s something that sustains me.”