ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
The Arnold Engineering Development Center's (AEDC) observance of the annual National Prayer Breakfast Tues., April 10 provided an opportunity for people of all faiths to find common ground in aspiring toward spiritual wellness, according to Air Force Materiel Command chaplain.
Using a mixture of humor, anecdotal experiences and his own story of surviving heart surgery, Colonel Joseph S. Kuan challenged those attending the event to be spiritual stewards of their lives and to reach out to others to do the same.
"Every day we have an opportunity to address the four dimensions of our personal wellness," he said. "I'm talking about our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellness. And the spiritual aspect is really the linchpin, the foundation holding everything together in our lives."
He described this year's National Prayer Day theme as a campaign to achieve wellness. Colonel Kuan gave multiple examples of definitive medical studies showing people who are committed to their faith and who weave prayer into their everyday lives recover more quickly and completely from surgery and various physical ailments.
"The way a worker at AEDC can support this campaign for spiritual wellness is by being mindful, sensitive to the needs and concerns of coworkers, to listen, ask questions - I'm advocating a grassroots approach to caring for ourselves and in turn, to engage others to do the same."
He said the idea is to get ahead of problems, giving the example of how the suicide of a coworker or friend impacts everyone in dramatic, devastating and long-term ways.
"By being alert to the problems of others before they descend into such extremes is key to all aspects of wellness - emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual," he said. "There are those among us at work, especially those who at an elevated level of spiritual wellness in their own lives, and we ask that they be proactive in helping others, but avoid proselytizing anyone in the process."
Col. Kuan's message connected with many of those attending the event, including Capt. Eric Norton, chief of AEDC's network control center.
"Due to the very recent passing of my father, the chaplain's message regarding spiritual wellness resonated deeply with me," he said. "Colonel Kuan's words helped me to focus on those relationships - family and friends - that I still have and their importance to me. He helped me to realize that I should never neglect them; to always treasure them. So, it's important to make the most of the time you have allotted to you...don't waste it."
For Lt. Col. Paul Schantz, AEDC 704th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, the National Prayer Breakfast represents one of the reasons he joined the military.
"This event provides a great reminder of why many of us serve - to protect our freedom to worship freely and to pray openly," he said. "The prayer breakfast also serves as a concrete reminder that faith isn't just for Sundays and that for spiritual wellness, we must integrate God into our lives throughout the week."
First Lt. Ezra Caplan, an aerospace engineer and project manager at the center, said the fact that events like the National Prayer Breakfast are open to people of all faiths is particularly significant.
"I understand the way our personal faiths and those of our forefathers shaped this great country and our common law which are based on the ideals of equality and inalienable rights," he said. "Faith gives us the assurance that this world was created with a moral blueprint, and enjoins us to remember the sanctity of life and human dignity. Our Jewish and Christian traditions share the concept of 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' and it is under this premise that I support the National Prayer Breakfast."
Colonel Kuan's call for everyone to reach out and support their coworkers, friends and family members struck a chord as well.
"AEDC has a strong family-style work ethic," said Carl Menako, a physicist with Aerospace Testing Alliance's integrated test and evaluation department. "People seem to naturally pull together here, and from what I've seen, we all work together to support the common goal."
Colonel Kuan also emphasized the power of prayer in all aspects of everyone's life.
For Captain Norton, prayer has long been an integral part of his life and the chaplain's message served to reinforce what comes naturally to him.
"First of all, I pray for folks whether they know it or not," he said. "Prayer is a very powerful tool. If a family member, friend or co-worker is going through an especially difficult time, I'll ask them if they'd like me to pray for them; or with them - if they'd like. I'm a good listener. I'm not saying I always succeed, but when you put others' needs ahead of your own, your own troubles seem to get smaller - you don't have as much time to worry about yourself."
Jean Crawford-Boggs, an administrative assistant with AEDC's 840th Maintenance Squadron, reflected on her own philosophy on spiritual wellness.
"We all need to look within ourselves and correct our own negativity," she said. "We can always help others see the blessings in their own lives. My goal is to continue showing others that there's a light in me that I want them to bring out in themselves. We all should exercise physically, emotionally, psychologically and most of all spiritually."
First held in 1953, the National Prayer Breakfast is attended annually by more than 3,400 guests in Washington D.C, including dignitaries from many nations. The President of the United States usually makes an address at the breakfast, which is officially hosted by members of both the House and the Senate of the U.S. Congress. The National Prayer Breakfast is observed on U.S. military bases throughout the country and overseas as well.