June 2, 2012
By Lacie Lowry
BRAGGS, Oklahoma - Paid for by private donations and built by volunteers, the Thunderbird Chapel at Camp Gruber is truly a gift of faith.
"It's bigger than our imagination, really," U.S. Army National Guard Chaplain Capt. David Jordan said.
A huge crowd, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, marveled at the $2-million project that was finished in six months.
The chapel is 10,000 square feet and can accommodate services for about 200 people.
"It looks like a place for soldiers; it looks like a place that will be rustic," Jordan said. "It's traditional in that way. It just screams sacredness if that's possible.
Fallin asked for public donations last year to build the chapel because Camp Gruber hasn't had one since it was reactivated 35 years ago.
"Thousands of volunteer hours have been given here, the money that's been raised," she said. "I have literally met people during the construction phase from all across the state, from all walks of life, from all different professions, who came and gave their time.
The governor says 150,000 soldiers train at Camp Gruber every year.
All faiths will be able to use the chapel.
One chaplain says this is truly a blessing compared to what they used to have to do.
"You always had to go out to the woods, you always had to go to the car, find a broom closet somewhere to talk to someone," U.S. Army National Guard Chaplain Capt. Dustin Crawford said. "This building is an opportunity. It's kind of a point where people know they can go and find someone who can help them through whatever they're going through.
A memorial garden will also be built near the chapel featuring the names of Oklahoma soldiers who have died for their country.
"To be able to give this gift to our soldiers, who have given so much for protecting the freedoms of our state, and to give them a place where they can assemble, they can worship, they can have a place of solitude and peace, and even community activities," Fallin said. "This is a great gift for our soldiers."
The chapel cost $2.2 million and Fallin says $400,000 is needed to pay off the last bill. You can learn how to donate here.