Cadet Chapel serves cadets, Academy staff, for 52 years

Construction on the U.S. Air Force Academy's iconic cadet chapel began Aug. 28, 1959. Construction was completed in 1963 by Robert E. McKee, General Contractor Inc., of Santa Fe, N.M.

Construction on the U.S. Air Force Academy's iconic cadet chapel began Aug. 28, 1959. Construction was completed in 1963 by Robert E. McKee, General Contractor Inc., of Santa Fe, N.M.

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Last month, the Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy, arguably one of the most recognizable buildings in Colorado Springs, if not the state, will have been a focal-point for serving the spiritual needs of cadets for 52 years.

The religious and spiritual pluralism supported at the Academy is as diverse as our cadet population, so it makes sense we acknowledge the anniversary of the construction of this very popular facility.

The Cadet Chapel represents an iconic place of worship for all faiths. It's a symbol of hope. As the Academy's chaplain, I find it refreshing to know any faith group has the opportunity to freely exercise their faith tenets or practices here under one roof, unlike any other service academy. In all, the cadets comprising the cadet wing represent more than 100 religious affiliations or philosophies. We provide a place of respect, acceptance, solace and sanctuary for all. If a cadet is struggling in any area of his or her, they can seek help from our Cadet Chapel team of chaplains and chaplain assistants, who comprise our religious support teams, and get the help they seek. We serve the religious needs of Academy staff members and our visitors often stop by the Academy to attend religious services.

Weekly chapel attendance here has not been mandatory since June 30, 1972, when the U. S. Court of Appeals ruled that compulsory chapel attendance at the three United States service academies was unconstitutional. There are no mandates to attend or to not attend. Our goal is to provide a comfortable environment to meet the cadets' needs.

All major Air Force installations have a chapel so the Air Force Academy is in line with the Defense Department directives to provide a dedicated place for Airmen and their families to exercise their faith. Many cadets search for that opportunity to explore and exercise their faith, and the Cadet Chapel is the focal point. Simply said, if there is a religious need, we will work with the individual and provide services.

It's not just cadets, Academy staff and their families who use the Cadet Chapel. We host nearly half a million visitors each year, many who visit the Academy specifically to see our iconic chapel. I hope that the chapel, when seen from the interstate, is viewed as a symbol of hope and peace. Regardless of an individual's faith or their choice of no faith, the Cadet Chapel is a visible symbol of the Academy's commitment to religious freedom for all.

Whether you attend any form of religious services at the chapel, I hope you find it as inspiring as I do that for 52 years, our chapel has represented our nation and our Academy's deep respect for religious pluralism. What could be more American than that?  

Cadet Chapel facts             
-- The architecture company, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, of Chicago, designed the chapel
-- The Cadet Chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects' National Twenty-five Year Award in 1996 and named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2004.
-- The chapel is 159 feet tall
-- The chapel's shell and the grounds surrounding the building cost $3.5 million to build.  Many furnishings, including the chapel's pipe organs, liturgical fittings and adornments, were gifts from various private donors and organizations. A designated Easter offering was taken across the Air Force in 1959 to help fund the completion of the chapel's interior.
-- The chapel was designed to house three worship areas under a single roof - for Protestants, Catholics and Jewish.  A Buddhist sanctuary and a Muslim chapel are located also located in the chapel.
-- The chapel features an all-faiths room