Written by Chaplain John Stevey
Dayton Daily News:
By Jim DeBrosse 12 November 2001
Dayton VA Chaplain Penned Prayer that guides Special
Carried from Vietnam to Afghanistan
Small teams of U.S. Army Special Forces troops in
Afghanistan are playing a big role in the fight against
terrorism: they're training the anti-Taliban rebels, organizing
supply lines and spotting targets for American warplanes.
The elite corps of commandos is lightly armed but highly
trained in the language and culture of whatever region they
are deployed to. Among their sparse Army-issued
equipment, a powerful message goes with them — the
Special Forces prayer, written 40 years ago by Dayton
Veterans Affairs chaplain John Stevey.
"The prayer has been a very important part of our culture
here," said Lt. Col. Tim Willoughby, command chaplain for
the U.S. Army Special Forces based at Ft. Bragg, N.C. "Just
about all of our chaplains have put together various
resources that we give to our soldiers when they're deployed,
and just about everything we give the soldiers has that
prayer in it."
The prayer also is inscribed in a stained glass window above
the entry to the Special Forces chapel at Ft. Bragg. More
recently, it has found its way onto T-shirts and sweatshirts
sold at the fort's JFK Museum.
Stevey, 70, was a 30-year-old Army chaplain at Ft. Bragg
back in 1961 when Gen. William Yarborough, then the
commanding officer of the Special Forces, asked him to
compose a prayer for the Green Berets who were about to be
sent to Laos to train the Royal Laotian army for repelling the
Stevey's orders were to write something brief (it had to fit on
a wallet-sized card the troops could carry) that would serve
all religious backgrounds and remind the soldiers "of the
spiritual nature of what they were doing," Stevey recalled in
his office at the Dayton VA Medical Center. He came out of
retirement four years ago to join the VA staff.
Stevey was careful to leave out references to specific
religions ("I guess it could be used even by Muslims," he
said.) but he also wanted to remind the soldiers of their
dependence on God and their higher mission as Special
"I'm a conservative theologically," he said. "But if I had
talked about the cross, or had talked about Jesus, it wouldn't
have passed muster . . . Instead, it's a prayer asking for God's
guidance and protection in what we do."
He said its intent also "is to remind the soldiers that they are
not just brutes, that there is a higher project they are working
on — to defend the defenseless and free the oppressed."
Which is exactly what the Special Forces are trying to do
now in Afghanistan, Stevey said. "I certainly hope this is of
value to them."
Willoughby, himself a native of Tipp City, said the prayer's
simple humility accounts for its lasting appeal. "It strikes a
chord with Special Forces soldiers who acknowledge God as
their source of strength," he said.
Stevey said nothing in his background while growing up in a
small town outside of Pittsburgh would have marked him as a
chaplain. "I didn't take the church seriously," he said. "In
fact, a girlfriend I had in high school later wrote to me and
said, 'How did this happen?'"
Soon after graduating from high school, where he lettered in
seven different sports, Stevey was nearly killed in a
construction site accident and later in a car crash — both in
the same week.
"I got to thinking about changing my life," he said.
He went on to Bob Jones University, where a religious
vocation called to him — but so did the U.S. Army. He went
off to Korea as a chaplain in 1960.
"It was a good fit for me," he said. "I'm not the holy guy who
walks around and looks pious. I felt that to be a man among
men was my calling."
In 1977, Stevey retired as a full colonel from the Army, where
he spent four years training with, and ministering to, the
Special Forces. He went through its officer training school,
completed all the requirements at Panama's Jungle Warfare
Center and earned his credentials as a master parachutist.
"You got to be there with the soldiers," he said. "You have to
understand what they're going through in order to help
U.S. Special Forces
Have Prayer Covering
from Maranatha Christian News Service
© 2001 charismanews.com
© 2001 Maranatha Christian News Service
(Post date: December 5,
The prayers of thousands of Americans are with the U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- but Col. John Stevey's are with them in a special way.
Members of the elite Special Forces carry with them a laminated prayer he penned for the unit at the request of the group's famed commander, Gen. William Yarborough.
Stevey was asked to write something that would be appropriate for all religions and could be easily carried in a wallet, just before the Green Berets were due to be shipped out to Laos, in 1961.
Yarborough was "hard as nails, but...very devout," Stevey told "The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review."
"He said he wanted to remind them of the spiritual nature of what they were doing." Stevey created a prayer that included elements of the national anthem, the Lord's Prayer, "In God We Trust" and the Special Forces' motto.
It acknowledges God as "the author of liberty and the champion of the oppressed," and asks that God might "grant us wisdom from thy mind, courage from thine heart, strength from thine arm, and protection by thy hand."
Now 70, Stevey joined the Army as a chaplain in 1957.
He was assigned to the 77th Special Forces at Fort Bragg, N.C., after a tour in South Korea.
His prayer is routinely carried by the Green Berets and featured in a stained glass window at the group's Fort Bragg chapel.
"When I see these guys [in Afghanistan] on TV, I'm proud to have played some small part in all this," Stevey told the "Tribune-Review."
"These are the kind of men I'm happy we have on our side."