From left: Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, senior minister of Shiloh Baptist Church, U.S. Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry C. Black, Deacon Charles D. Smith, and other military veterans celebrate the 122nd anniversary of its Nursing Unit and the 20th anniversary of Veterans Recognition. (Photo by Charles Stoutamire)
From left: Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, senior minister of Shiloh Baptist Church, U.S. Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry C. Black, Deacon Charles D. Smith, and other military veterans celebrate the 122nd anniversary of its Nursing Unit and the 20th anniversary of Veterans Recognition. (Photo by Charles Stoutamire)

Military service and faith marked the occasion last Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church, where congregants observed the 122nd anniversary of its Nursing Unit and the 20th anniversary of Veterans Recognition Sunday.

Rear Adm. Barry Black USN (ret.) opened the doors of the church following his sermon titled, “Stand Your Ground Against the Devil.”

The Shiloh gospel choir members sang, “I Am on the Battlefield for My Lord.” 

Nurse Juanita I. Coyle Bailey R.N. welcomed visitors. Throughout the service, members who served as nurses and veterans stood as they were recognized.

Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, senior pastor of Shiloh, said, “Let us express our heartfelt congratulations to our veterans and our nurses on this, their annual celebration.”

Lt Col. Barbara Hatcher USA (ret), a nurse and a veteran, said the nurses at Shiloh have served selflessly for more than a century. 

Hatcher was a registered nurse working on her Ph.D. at George Mason University when she was called to join the 115th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital of the D.C. National Guard. Her destination was the Persian Gulf.

“When we were called up, I thought it would backfill and support the nurses at Walter Reed, but this would be a different type of nursing,” said Hatcher, who, within weeks, would be aboard a military plane headed to Saudi Arabia.

“Many people in my unit were leaving their jobs, their children, and I had to leave school,” said Hatcher, who will never forget the six months she spent working in a combat field hospital.

“The most shocking thing was being in a country that you knew nothing about and having the skud missiles fall around you in the evening,” said Hatcher, adding that she is still close to many nurses to this day.

Captain Charles D. Smith, US Navy (ret.), commissioned on November 3, 1972, at the United States Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, is credited with establishing the program to honor the nurses and veterans of the church. 

 “Nothing but my faith in God that has allowed me to do what I do,” said Smith as he talked about his reason for honoring Hatcher and the other nurses and veterans.

“The Black church community produces its share of nurses and armed service personnel who battle illness, disease, discomfort, and hostile forces at home and abroad,” Smith said.

 Shiloh Baptist Church, located and 9th and P Streets, N.W., was founded amidst the turmoil of the Civil War in 1863 by a group of 21 formerly enslaved people from Fredericksburg, VA, who came to D.C. under the protection of the Union Army.

 Reverend Thomas Bowen, minister of Social Justice at Shiloh and the director of the D.C. Office of Religious Affairs, said Shiloh was founded by formerly enslaved people with “the stains of the Civil War on their brow. Thank you, nurses, for providing resources to veterans to meet their needs.”

 “Service means giving to others so their lives can be enhanced,” Smith said. “We have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate men and women in union, be it in the church or a nurse.”

 “We can’t afford to lose our history because there are people who want to take it away from us,” Smith added. “People don’t realize all the sacrifices that veterans make.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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