7048054.jpgChaplain (Col.) Joey Byrd, Command Chaplain for U.S. Central Command, Tampa, Fla., was the Fort Jackson, S.C., National Prayer Breakfast guest speaker. He spoke about the importance of religious services to himself, friends and allied partner forces. The Feb. 3, 2022, breakfast brought roughly 40 Soldiers and their Family members together with thousands more through live stream to prayer for the nation, leaders and Fort Jackson Soldiers and cadre members. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea)

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Team Jackson joined thousands of others in-person and online around the globe for the annual National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 3, 2022.

“Pray with me, if you so choose,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Loy Sweezy as he opened the breakfast with the invocation. “We ask for your bountiful blessings upon our prayer breakfast this morning. We thank you for a land where we are free to pray, free to sing, and free to worship.”

Forty-nine Soldiers, civilians and their Family members attended the breakfast buffet at the NCO Club. They joined even more who tuned into the breakfast remotely from their homes, offices and from the field.

The prayer breakfast was nondenominational and included unified prayers of different faiths for the welfare of the nation, state and local leaders, and Fort Jackson leadership, cadre and their Family members.

“Almighty and eternal God, we humbly pray for your blessings and protection to be upon the United States of America,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Tom Kelly. “Help us to remain united under you, in brotherly love for our fellow citizens. Depose the hearts of us all too generous charity in service to others. We plead that your favor, your grace and your mercy be upon our nation now and forevermore.”

“I greet you in the manner that Muslims all over the world greet each other in the universal speech of peace … As-salamu alaykum, peace be unto you,” said Imam Omar Shaheed. “We pray (for our) esteemed governor, our state and local elected officials, their staffs and all of our fellow South Carolinians. We ask the creator to continue to bless them. To maintain the resiliency demonstrated as they have responded to the numerous challenges and crisis situations. We ask for strength and understanding as they address the growing division among people along the lines of radical or racial divide. We pray the creator will bless us in our scriptural guidance and to heal the hearts of racism, bigotry and hatred.”

“Gracious Lord, I lift up the cadre and Families before you this morning. I pray that you will guide our cadre through whatever challenges and trials they may face,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Kj Henderson. “Show them wisdom as they navigate both personal and professional challenges and give them the strength and patience they need to continue the work of not only leading their Family but leading this next generation of Soldiers. Be with them, lead them, guide them, and protect them as they seek to fulfil the sacred calling of serving to you and country. In your most holy name I pray … amen.”

Attendees responded with “amen,” as they returned to their seats. The guest speaker was then introduced.

Chaplain (Col.) Joey Byrd, Command Chaplain for U.S. Central Command, Tampa, Florida, accepted the opportunity to speak at the breakfast to explain the importance chaplains and their assistance bring to Soldiers as well as allied partners who serve alongside during deployments.

The role of guest speaker was also an informal introduction of Byrd to Team Jackson as he will take up the mantle of garrison chaplain when he and his wife move to the installation in mid-April.

“I am proud to be an Army chaplain,” Byrd said. “I’ve served in many countries and I want to share what I have learned along the way. One of the reasons religious support is important to me and to you is it gives us meaning and purpose in life and resiliency. It gives us the ability to bounce back when things get difficult. It gives us joy, sanity and peace of mind.”

Byrd continued on to explain how religious support is important to others as well. He said Marines frequently spoke to a team of chaplains he oversaw in the final days of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The Marines were able to speak of their experiences, stresses and worries while working outside the Kabul Airport, providing them comfort.

He also spoke of the work the chaplain team performed during and after the bombing of the airport’s Abbey Gate that took the lives of 13 U.S. service members and more than 183 civilians and foreign troops. One duty of military chaplains is to give last rights to those who have passed.

“Religious support is important to me, others and most important to our allies and friends,” Byrd said. “‘When we see the Chaplains and assistants in the U.S. military, we know that the U.S. military is full of integrity and moral high ground. That give us comfort and confidence.’ That was how (foreign) commanders and command sergeants major responded when we asked how we as religious support can best support them in a humanitarian crisis.”

As the breakfast came to a close, Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson commanding general, presented Byrd with a small gift in appreciation of his speech. After, those in attendance were able to spend time with one another and meet those from different walks of faith before returning to their offices or battalions.

Byrd said in closing, “thank you for allowing me to be here today. I look forward to having the opportunity to serve you in the future. God bless you, each and every one.”