Fort McCoy News Nov. 25, 2016

Retired chaplain shares stories on faith, service

BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Office

Faith and sacrifice were the themes at the Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon Nov. 10 at McCoy's Community Center.

The guest speaker was retired Army Chaplain (Col.) John Stake, who has more than 30 years of service. He also is a retired Lutheran pastor and lives near Castle Rock Lake, Wis.

Stake opened the event by asking the crowded room a few questions: "What do you think? Is it better to have a little faith, or is it better to have a lot of faith?"

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. presents a Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin to retired Chaplain (Col.) John K. Stake during the Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon Nov. 10 at McCoy's Community Center.
Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. presents a
Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin to retired Chaplain (Col.) John K. Stake
during the Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon Nov. 10 at McCoy's
Community Center. The Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office coordinated
distribution of the lapel pins for all Vietnam veterans at the luncheon
as part of the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War.
Stake was the guest speaker for the event.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

To illustrate, Stake shared a story about a late 1970s hike taken by him; his daughter, Kirsten, who was then 8 years old; and his dog Sonya. They began to trek through the woods and along a creek to reach their destination — ice-covered Castle Rock Lake.

"The ice on the creek was smooth and clean because of the freezing rain, almost like it had been groomed by an ice rink Zamboni," Stake said, but he had little faith that the ice was strong enough to walk on. He stripped a sapling of its branches and used it to walk out to test the ice.

"I got about 20 feet out when, accompanied by laughter and barking, Kirsten and Sonya came tumbling down the bank, slipping and sliding and heading for my feet," Stake said. "The dog lost its footing and splayed on its tummy like Bambi the fawn in the winter morn scene. Kirsten grabbed my legs for support, and we all fell down together in a confused pile of legs, tails, and noise."

Kirsten and Sonya had a lot of faith, he said. He gave the required safety lecture before they continued down to the lake.

"And there we saw the fishermen. There were about 30 of them with augers and gear and beer coolers and five or six large pickup trucks, all parked on the ice," Stake said.

"It was then that I realized that what's truly important is not whether I have a little faith or a lot of faith," he said. "What matters is: How strong is the ice?"

He said that while faith certainly is important, what really matters is how strong God is. Because of the challenges and sacrifices of military service, most veterans can relate their own stories of realizing "how strong is the ice," Stake said.

Retired Chaplain (Col.) John K. Stake gives his presentation during the Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon Nov. 10 at McCoy's Community Center.
Retired Chaplain (Col.) John K. Stake gives his presentation during the
Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon Nov. 10 at McCoy's Community Center.

Photo by Scott T. Sturkol. Bonus photo, not in print edition

He quoted Gen. Douglas MacArthur: "The Soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training — sacrifice."

"For young people, self-sacrifice does not come easily or without pain. Little children are not taught selfish behavior; they do that naturally," Stake said. "Instead, they are taught to share and to act selflessly. … Maturity is marked by the willingness to give up what seems to be one's best interest for a greater good."

Veterans Day is about remembering and honoring the sacrifices made by service members, Stake said, including those "whose selfless service has almost passed unnoticed."

Those service members include people like John Matthews, an Army and Navy veteran who died in 2012. Matthews served in the Navy during World War II and returned to civilian life when the war ended. He enlisted again, this time in the Army, when the Korean War began.

"What is significant about John Matthews' times of active duty was his willingness to serve in his country's time of need," Stake said. "For us to pause and to remember volunteer service and personal sacrifice of John and the many others like him is the right thing to do and shows our gratitude."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also shared a Veterans Day message. (See article.)

Prayers for service members, the nation, leaders, and the world were offered by local clergy members and chaplains. Music was provided by Uzo Eweama and Karen Birkeness. After a short presentation, Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. presented Vietnam War veterans, including Stake, with Vietnam veteran lapel pins.

Lt. Col. Mark Woommavovah with the 181st Infantry Brigade attended the program. "It was a great program," Woommavovah said. He said Stake summed it up best when he said discussed how honoring veterans is the right thing to do. "That really hit home for me."

The Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon was coordinated by the Religious Support Office. For more information about the office and its services, call 608-388-3528 or visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ftmccoyrso.