By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 07, 2005) -- A new initiative by the Air Force chaplain’s office aims to bring to Airmen something that cannot be issued -- hope.
Air Force chaplain service officials kicked off a year-long and service-wide "Campaign of Hope" Jan. 3, said Chaplain (Col.) Bob Page, of the chaplain’s office.
The campaign started with a day of prayer and fasting Chaplain Page said. The actual day varied from base to base. “We believe prayer has a lot to do with finding hope," he said.
The campaign came as a response to an increase in suicides among junior enlisted Airmen.
"There has been a tragic rise in the suicide rate, particularly among (airmen first class and senior airmen)," Chaplain Page said. "Not only with (them), but across the board there has been a rise in suicide rates, and we are deeply concerned about that. For every person who feels hopeless and in despair to the point of taking his or her life, it is a great tragedy and a loss to all of us.
"There are many pressures on our Airmen and their families, especially with deployments," he said. "Building and maintaining good relationships is difficult. One of the things about our Airmen is that they value relationships so much -- family and close friends. What happens when a relationship seems to be breaking apart, when there seems to be no hope for that relationship? Does that mean there is no hope at all?"
Air Force chaplains, he said, want to help answer those questions for Airmen struggling with them.
"We want to be a counterbalance to what some are experiencing as hopelessness," Chaplain Page said. "We are asking how we can focus some significant, caring ministry on that group.”
Part of that ministry involves sponsorship of what Chaplain Page calls "hope tours."
"This would be chapel-sponsored, (United Service Organization-style) morale tours," he said. "We would bring great singers, speakers and entertainers to bring a message of hope and encouragement to troops and their families."
As part of the campaign, chaplain service officials will be asking chaplains in the field what is working best for them as they minister to Airmen.
"We are initiating something called the Chief of Chaplains Grant Program," Chaplain Page said. "We are calling on wing chapel teams to look at the needs on their base, particularly among (young Airmen) and ask where can (the teams) serve them and bring hope into their lives. We will fund the best of those proposals and share their ideas across the Air Force."
The grant program will fund retreats for couples, programs to strengthen marriages and other initiatives to teach relationship building-skills to Airmen.