MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 3, 2012

New chapel dedicated at Camp Gruber

BRAGGS — Chaplain (Col.) Mike Taylor described the new chapel at Camp Gruber as wonderful.

Thunderbird Chapel will provide soldiers and their families with a place to worship and congregate, an invaluable thing when sending soldiers overseas, Taylor said.

“With no chapel out here for counseling, we’ve had to meet outside under trees and in fields,” Taylor said. “Now there’s a place for soldiers to receive counseling from chaplains in offices.”

In front of hundreds of military personnel and visiting guests, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and others officially opened Camp Gruber’s Thunderbird Chapel on Saturday.

Fallin was one of several speakers Saturday at Camp Gruber, discussing the “unprecedented” amount of work done to complete the camp’s new 10,500-square-foot chapel.

“It’s an amazing day for us and an amazing day for our soldiers,” Fallin said. “To be able to give this gift to our soldiers who have given us so much is truly an honor.”

Gerry Shepherd, president and chief executive officer of Oklahoma Roofing and Sheet Metal and construction coordinator of the chapel, said he was amazed at the amount of work he, contractors and hundreds of volunteers were able to do.

“The work we have done in the last year and two weeks is nothing short of phenomenal,” Shepherd said. “One year and two weeks ago, we were standing on this ground with forest and undergrowth behind me.”

Shepherd said the speed of the construction was a source of pride for the committee and workers that helped put it together. The chapel project was announced in September, and the majority of the work was done in April, before the return of the 45th Infantry from Afghanistan.

“We were committed to attaining our goal of raising this chapel in time for the return of the 45th Infantry,” Shepherd said. “People from across the state have come together this year to make something special happen, and no one deserves it more than our military men and women and their families.”

Construction costs for the chapel exceeded $2.2 million, Shepherd said. Funding for labor and equipment was donated by volunteers across Oklahoma and eight other states. Shepherd said a much of the work was completed during a 16-day “barnstorming” effort in November, where hundreds of volunteers worked day and night.

After the dedication ceremony, visitors — including Fallin and her husband, Wade Christensen — were given a tour of the chapel.   

A projector screen inside the sanctuary showed a series of photographs from the site’s construction as the crowd funneled through the building.

“The whole chapel is very impressive,” Fallin said. “But I love the stained glass windows.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

You can help

While hundreds of thousands of dollars in building materials and support have been received in the form of in-kind donations, cash donations are still needed to finish funding the Thunderbird Chapel project. For information on the project and to learn how you can contribute, visit www.campgruberchapel.org.

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