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An Impact Statement to Remember

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“. . . Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9

Father Joe O’Callahan, a professor of physics and mathematics at Holy Cross College, was compelled into service during the early stages of World War II, as his missionary sister was at risk during the occupation of the Philippines. That inspiration led to his commissioning as a chaplain in 1940 and eventually his wartime service aboard the USS Franklin. During an attack off the coast of Japan, Chaplain O’Callahan risked his life by organizing damage control parties and care for his sailors. From these actions and injuries, Father Joe inspired others and became the first Navy chaplain to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Chaplain O’Callahan’s official citation for the Medal of Honor reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.[4]

But Chaplain O’Callahan’s impact statement did not stop here. Throughout his life as a professor and a chaplain, he inspired others in a way that is often overlooked. His life directly influenced two other Medal of Honor Recipients, 1st LT Powers USMC and CAPT Kelly USN, and a Silver Star recipient, 1st LT Mullany.

What is your impact statement? What inspiration are you sharing?

Let us pray. . .

Lord, We thank you for the inspiration from the mentors and teachers in our lives. As we have been blessed by them and by You, help us to look beyond the bulkheads of our lives.

As we strive to seek You first, may we also find the “hatches, hanger bays and elevators” that place us upon the “flight decks” of our life.

As we strive to serve our fellow man, may we be more than just “A global force for good.” May we be a local motivating force for others. May all those who come behind us find us faithful.

As we strive together, may we become our brothers’ keeper; may we become that iron that sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), and allow others to rest when they are weary.

As we stand our watches and our flight ops become rack ops, may we awake to fight the good fight. Amen.

Work Cited:

Chaplain O’Callahan’s Medal of Honor Citation:

Questions to Share:

1. Is there someone you remember who inspired you to bravery?

2. How do you want to be remembered by succeeding generations?


Chaplain Shinn has served the Navy as a Machinst Mate 85-91 and as a Sea Bee Builder 99-10. He is amazed to see where God is at work into the deckplates and lives of sailors and us unto the world.

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