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taps...then reveille

by David Crowe

I RECENTLY HAD THE HONOR OF ATTENDING THE FUNERAL service of the first Free Will Baptist Chaplain, (COL) Gerald Mangham (U.S. Army Retired). Chaplain Mangham was commissioned in 1967 to represent the Free Will Baptist denomination in the armed services. I knew that it would be a time of sadness, but also a time of celebration of home going.

While I was a student at Free Will Baptist Bible College, Chaplain Mangham came and spoke at Bible Conference. I had already been through basic training in the Army, served several years in the Army National Guard, and had encountered several chaplains. The chaplains I met left me with little hope that the military had any conservative chaplains available to military personnel. After hearing Chaplain Mangham preach, my fears were dispelled.

Chaplain Mangham, a native of Oklahoma, served in Vietnam, Korea, Germany, and several stateside tours. Upon retiring from the military, Brother Gerald was chosen to serve as the first civilian chaplain at Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C.  He was known for his wonderful sense of humor and over the span of his career was applauded and honored for his many military awards. However, his greatest achievements were his commitment to his faith, his love for his family, and his compassion for others. He faithfully served his Lord, his country, and his denomination for more than 30 years in the United States Army.

Chaplain Major General Gaylord T. Gunus, U.S. Army Retired Chief of Chaplains conducted the funeral. As I listened and watched, I was impressed by the military dignitaries present and by the Honor Guard who carried out their responsibilities with pomp and ceremony, polish and precision.

At military funerals, the American flag is folded and presented to the wife and children; a lone bugler plays the familiar and soulful Taps. This military funeral was different. Major General Gunus, presiding at the graveside said, “In honor of a special request by Chaplain Mangham, we will break with military protocol, and after Taps has been played, the bugler will sound Reveille.”

It occurred to me that this is exactly the way it should be for a soldier of the cross. While Taps is played here for us, Reveille has already sounded in Heaven. Our heavenly day has just begun.

At the time of his retirement, Chaplain Mangham offered the following testimony. “The chaplaincy is truly a team ministry, and one can never say enough about a dedicated wife through whom God provides inspiration. My wife Bertie has been that and a lot more. Our life verses have been Philippians 4:19 and Psalm 37:4. We have found His blessings to be overflowing, even in war, separations, and the trials of a ministry that is sometimes little understood. Our ministry has been an extension of the Home Missions Department and Free Will Baptists as a whole, and we trust that we have been a good team for you.”

The Home Missions Department offers a tremendous thank you for a job well done and expresses condolences and Christian love to the Gerald Mangham family.

David Crowe, the director of church growth for Home Missions, travels the nation preaching revivals and speaking at retreats and camps. David loves FWB history and has done extensive research into the early development of Free Will Baptists.



©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists