Dover AFB Opens New Chapel, Has Unique Added Purpose - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Dover AFB Opens New Chapel, Has Unique Added Purpose

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DOVER, Del. - Dover Air Force Base officially opened its new on-base chapel Monday.

It is a space with a dual purpose - unique to the mission at DAFB. The air force base's primary function is air mobility flying personnel and cargo all over the country and world. But the base is also home to the air force mortuary affairs operation. It's the main site for the return of remains of fallen servicemen and women. And that mission played a large role in the design of the chapel.

The sanctuary of the 19,343 sq. ft., $8.7 million chapel was nearly full for its opening ceremony. Base Senior Chaplain Lt. Col. Dennis Saucier stood in front of the crowd at the podium for the first of what is likely to be many times. He says the building, a replacement for the base's original chapel, which was built in the 1950s, is for people of all faiths, not just Christians.

"Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, earth-based religions," he said.

The building isn't just for prayer. One-third of it is for AFMAO. It's a separated space that can receive families after a mass casualty event.

"100 family members or 200 family members," said Chaplain David Sparks, with AFMAO. "We didn't have any adequate space on Dover Air Force Base to take care of them."

Sparks says that effectively triples the base's capacity for friends and family of fallen servicemembers.

"I can see and feel what this room would be like, because we face this day and day out for a number of years now - where the families are here at the worst possible moment of their lives," he said. "It's invaluable to provide a place for families to feel like they are cared for and loved."

And Saucier says the rest of the chapel is invaluable to base personnel on a day to day basis.

"It's very important. This is where there's a holy presence. This is the one spot where they can feel completely safe."

Sparks says the largest mass casualty event he can remember that came through Dover was in 2011.The base had more than 1,000 people show up after a major helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The added space still couldn't handle that many people. But it does get the base much closer.

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