Governor dedicates Thunderbird Chapel to Camp Gruber

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Updated: 6/02/2012 11:14 pm Published: 6/02/2012 10:23 pm

Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma National Guardsmen and several volunteers dedicated the Thunderbird Chapel to Camp Gruber Saturday morning.  The Chapel took 16 weeks to build, starting last September with the groundbreaking.

Governor Fallin noticed a few years ago Camp Gruber was missing a chapel.  The camp was built during World War II and had 14 chapels at the time but over the years the camp closed and would re-open and during that the buildings were sold off for funding.  The camp has been without a chapel for 35 years. 

“I though t it was just a shame and totally unacceptable,” said Governor Fallin. 

She organized a committee and they raised more than $1 million.  In total the building costs $2.2 million.  Everything was donated to the chapel, from the stain glass windows to the piano that was donated by the Oklahoma National Guard’s Major General, Myles L. Deering and his family. 

“It was a phenomenal effort and I only have one way to describe that, it was a God sent because the government couldn't have done it in ten years,” said Major General Deering to the audience as they laughed. 

Staff Sgt. Erik Wolf is someone who will benefit greatly from the new Thunderbird Chapel.  He returned home to Owasso just over a month ago with his 45th Infantry brigade Combat team.  He lost 14 of his soldiers since July of 2011.  He has found it challenging over the years to find a place to talk with God. 

“You just get creative,” said Sgt. Wolf.  “Sometimes it was my car, or a Humvee.  I was just going through a lot of internal conflict; loss of our soldiers; I just needed to talk to someone and the chaplain made a hasty office out of a broom closet, and it was perfect.  He was just what I needed at that moment. 

Sgt. Wolf is overwhelmed by the kindness of the volunteers

“It's bigger than me it's bigger than us,” said Sgt. Wolf.  “When people come up to me and thank me for my service, I look them in the face and I say thank you, it's a team sport.  We do what we do but its folks like you who galvanize behind us who enable us to do what we do, this (the chapel) embodies that team spirit.” 

The chapel committee still needs to raise $400,000 to build a garden.  It plans to memorialize each of the 19 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice since September 11, 2001. 

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