By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
MOAA’s newest virtual chapter brings together military chaplains to share resources and tools, support the association’s mission, and advocate for issues pertinent to the community.
MOAA’s board of directors approved in July the creation of the Chaplains Virtual Chapter, the association’s fourth virtual chapter.
In addition to military chaplains, non-clergy MOAA members serving as chaplains in their chapters can join, according to Col. Peter Baktis, USA (Ret), president of the Chaplains Virtual Chapter.
“One of our goals is to help chaplains in MOAA chapters who aren’t necessarily ordained people with providing spiritual guidance in their chapters,” Baktis said. “We want to help provide the tools they need.”
The chapter also aims to be a voice on legislative issues. “As chaplains, we also have specific legislative input that is important but doesn’t always get heard,” said Baktis, citing issues such as suicide and PTSD about which chaplains can provide a unique, personal perspective.
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Currently, the chapter has about 30 members from across the U.S. The group is working to set up its first virtual meeting this fall. Anyone interested in joining can contact Baktis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council of Virtual Chapters
The Chaplains Virtual Chapter as well as the MOAA Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter, the Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter, and the U.S. Public Health Service Virtual Chapter are all now part of the new Council of Virtual Chapters, which MOAA’s board of directors also approved in July.
The mission of the council is to provide support to one another as well as assist groups interested in forming a virtual chapter, said Col. Jeri Graham, USA (Ret), council president.
“We’re very excited,” she said. “I think it’s a great service, to be helpful to current and future virtual chapters.”
The council already has several resources available, including a webinar and toolkit, but they also hope to create others, keeping technology advancements in mind.
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Like in geographic MOAA councils, the virtual council’s leadership team is representative of the four virtual chapters.
Graham emphasized that collaboration is key to the council’s success. “If we’re going to do this how we envisioned this to be, all decisions are made by all of us,” she said.
According to Capt. Erin E. Stone JAGC, USN (Ret), senior director, MOAA Council and Chapter Affairs, MOAA’s virtual chapters are growing, successfully executing their respective missions, and complementing the efforts and membership growth of geographic chapters.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer the opportunity for chaplains and lay leaders to come together virtually around the globe in fellowship and in support of MOAA’s mission,” Stone said. “We create virtual chapters where there is a need and a mission, and, importantly, when we find a champion who believes in the mission enough to commit his or her time and effort to standing up and leading the chapter. To have enough virtual chapters to organize into a council is a testament to the initiative and commitment of our virtual chapter leaders.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.
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