WASHINGTON (BP) -- Living one's faith in the U.S. military took center stage at the 62nd observance of the National Day of Prayer in Washington as lawmakers and faith leaders gathered on Capitol Hill.
After a series of speakers at the Cannon Office Building, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. William D. Lee took the microphone to represent Americans serving in the military. Lee told the crowd he had 10 minutes of carefully prepared remarks but was leaving them in his chair and, instead, would "speak from the heart."
Lee, who described himself as "a man of deep abiding faith who happens to wear a uniform," went on to defy any efforts to stop military personnel from openly sharing their Christian faith -- a topic that has sparked widespread controversy in recent weeks. (One such report was in Baptist Press.)
Lee mentioned last year's record number of active military suicides, 349 -- roughly one per day -- and said every 65 minutes a military veteran takes his or her life. "I want you to remember that number," Lee said.
The rear admiral spoke of a 24-year-old soldier who had attempted suicide recently but survived his self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Lee said when he met the soldier, he knew the rules call for sending him to a chaplain. But Lee said his heart was to give him a Bible.
"The lawyers tell me that if I do that, I'm crossing the line," Lee said. "I'm so glad I've crossed that line so many times."
Lee pledged not to back down from "my right under the Constitution to tell a young man that there is hope."
Lee received several standing ovations during his brief remarks. He requested prayer for Christian military personnel to "weather the storm that I am almost certain will come."
Also during the May 2 observance, Greg Laurie, honorary chairman for the 2013 National Day of Prayer Task Force and pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., addressed the crowd despite homosexual activists' attempt to force him to withdraw from giving the keynote address. Laurie, who has held to the biblical definition of marriage, said he wouldn't back down from his stance.
Earlier in the day, Laurie spoke at the Pentagon, focusing most of his remarks on the need for prayer that would spark revival. He prayed that God would "send a spiritual awakening that will turn the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, back to You. Forgive us, and heal this troubled land we love so much."
Featured speakers at the Washington event also included, among others, James and Shirley Dobson; Rep. Robert Aderholt, R.-Ala.; Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ; Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va.; and Barry Black, U.S. Senate chaplain.
The National Day of Prayer, which President Harry S. Truman signed into law in 1952, is recognized on the first Thursday of each May. The national observance in the nation's capital was one of many observances held across the country.
In his 2013 National Day of Prayer proclamation, President Barack Obama said, "Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support." He called on Americans to remember those affected by the recent tragedies in Boston, Newtown, Conn., and West, Texas.
J.C. Derrick writes for WORLD News Service. Used by permission.
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