Face of Defense: Army Guard Gets Its First Muslim Chaplain

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 24, 2010 — A Texas Nation­al Guard offi­cer will become the Army Nation­al Guard’s first Mus­lim chap­lain in Decem­ber.

Army 1st Lt. Rafael Lantigua, right, of the Texas National Guard shakes hands with Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a Ramadan dinner in Washington, D.C. Lantigua will become the Guard's first Muslim chaplain in December 2010.
Army 1st Lt. Rafael Lan­tigua, right, of the Texas Nation­al Guard shakes hands with Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKin­ley, chief of the Nation­al Guard Bureau, dur­ing a Ramadan din­ner in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Lan­tigua will become the Guard’s first Mus­lim chap­lain in Decem­ber 2010.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. Dar­ron Salz­er
Click to enlarge

Army 1st Lt. Rafael Lan­tigua, an eccle­si­as­ti­cal­ly endorsed, ful­ly ordained min­is­ter, will assume his post after fin­ish­ing class­es required by the Armed Ser­vices Chap­lain Board.

“I am hum­bled for this oppor­tu­ni­ty to be a role mod­el for oth­er mem­bers of my faith through­out the mil­i­tary,” he said.

As he was grow­ing up, Lan­tigua was not a Mus­lim. He decid­ed to con­vert when he was a teenag­er, he said, and he attrib­uted that deci­sion to the diver­si­ty of his back­ground. His Bap­tist moth­er is an African-Amer­i­can, and his Roman Catholic father is from the Domini­can Repub­lic. After his par­ents divorced, he said, his moth­er mar­ried a Bud­dhist.

“Grow­ing up in such diver­si­ty caused me to explore my options,” Lan­tigua said.

That diver­si­ty, he said, enabled him to embrace the Mus­lim faith before he enlist­ed in the Air Force. He has con­tin­ued to be open about his reli­gious beliefs, he added, in the hope that he can break down the stig­ma sur­round­ing Mus­lims since Sept. 11, 2001.

“I hope that I will be able to encour­age more ser­vice­mem­bers of my faith to open up about their reli­gious beliefs, espe­cial­ly with how we are viewed polit­i­cal­ly,” he said. “I hope to show my fel­low mil­i­tary mem­bers that Mus­lims are not bad peo­ple and that we are not all rad­i­cal Mus­lim ter­ror­ists.”

Lan­tigua said the Guard is more than ready for this move.

“The Guard is ripe for this to take place,” he said. “Mus­lims have been with us since the for­ma­tion of this great coun­try. There were Mus­lims fight­ing with us dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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