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Friday, June 14, 2024 - 07:56 PM


First Published in 1994


Former Air Force Captain James F. Linzey (Ret.)
Former Air Force Captain James F. Linzey (Ret.)

WASHINGTON --  Former Air Force Captain James F. Linzey served as a highly decorated officer and chaplain for the United States Air Force Space Command, which became the United States Space Force under the Donald J. Trump Administration. In 1994 and 1995 he served at Vandenberg AFB, California under Brigadier General Lance W. Lord who was the Commanding General. Brigadier General Lord was promoted through the ranks over the course of the following several years. On April 22, 2002 he was promoted to the rank of General, and on April 24, 2002 General Lord became the Commander of the United States Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB, Colorado.

As a retired Air Force officer, Major General James C. Wahleithner once wrote about Linzey to General Lord, who is now retired, "I would like to express my gratitude for the outstanding service that Chaplain, Captain, James F. Linzey, USAF, of the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, provided this past year. Chaplain Linzey's excellent planning, organization, invocations and benedictions at statewide functions, and well planned Memorial Services at the State Conventions for the past three years have made our programs a great success. His preaching is outstanding."

This was a commendation when Linzey pulled double duty by simultaneously serving as a Space Command chaplain and as the State Chaplain for the United States Reserve Officers' Association, Department of California, as the pastor for 12,000 officers from each of the five Armed Forces.

With Linzey's background in the Space Command, it was fitting that he was commissioned to write the United States Space Force Hymn. He set his pen to paper on February 13, 2020, and on February 22 he completed the hymn. It is titled "Creator of the Universe." Linzey has recently been asked by superiors if he would be willing to make the hymn gender neutral. When Linzey, who is now a Lieutenant Colonel serving in the United States Volunteers Joint Services Command, was asked why this request was made.

He replied, "In the prayer as originally written, an inclusive male reference was made in the phrase 'watch o'er the men who fly.' Inclusive male references have included both male and female genders throughout the history of the English language. But it is often misunderstood today by the new generation of military personnel who think the inclusive 'he,' 'man,' or 'mankind,' excludes females."

There are thousands of examples in the King James Version Bible and other early modern and modern English documents that make use of inclusive male pronouns and references. "However, we never desire to cause any segment of society to feel isolated. So I totally concur with the request. The phrase in question now reads, 'watch over those who fly.' It means the same thing. So it's not a big deal. Changes in language only matter if changes in meaning are requested. Such is not the case here," Linzey said.

We have already had military female pilots and astronauts. Imagine yourself as a female sitting at a Space Force ceremony or in a Space Force chapel service and you feel left out simply because the Space Force Hymn is being sung as "watch o'er the men who fly." The Space Force Hymn is a prayer to God for all who would like to pray and sing. Facilitating all military members' religions and relationships with their God through prayers and songs of praise is the purpose of all hymns. The purpose of having a military hymn for each military service is to draw military members to their God.

Linzey is the only living author of a military hymn. But a concern remains about other military hymns that are now lagging behind the United States Space Force Hymn, because their hymns are gender specific. The Air Force Hymn contains three references to men—one in the title and two in the text. The Navy Hymn contains one reference to men, but additional references occur in alternate verses.

"These are very old, traditional hymns, written in a patriarchal period of western civilization. But when you understand English, and that they used inclusive male terminology, then you can understand that they include everyone. These are exceptionally well written. I am pleased to contribute 'Creator of the Universe' to the collection of United States Armed Forces hymns and am pleased that many Space Force and Air Force personnel, as well as the general populace, are making use of it and highly regard it," Linzey replied.

In 2006, eight years after crossing from the Air Force to the Army, Linzey was the first-ever chaplain to be assigned full time to the Leader's Training Course under the United States Army Cadet Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Commanding General watched Linzey closely to see if having a full time chaplain would increase the percentage of 2nd Lieutenant ROTC Cadets in the course who would accept a commission in the Army. At the conclusion of the summer course, the answer was unequivocally affirmative. Since then the institution has hired full time chaplains.

While there, the Leader's Training Course Commander, Colonel Robert Frusha, commissioned Linzey to write the official institutional prayer. This honor meant that Linzey would be the author of one of the four official institutional military prayers ever to be written in American history if it was extremely well written. There is a humorous story behind this saga as retold by Linzey:

Colonel Frusha was not known to be a very religious man. His major was English in his undergraduate work. So when I went into his office and presented the prayer to him, he told me to sit down. He then proofread it and looked at me and said, "Chaplain, it is deficient." I looked intently at him and asked, "Sir?" Then he said, "It is lacking a comma." So he added that comma. A rumor had humorously spread among the staff that, though Colonel Frusha wasn't religious, he contributed to a prayer. Later on at a Command and Staff Meeting, the prayer was presented to and accepted by Major General W. Montague Winfield, the Commanding General of the United States Army Cadet Command. Major General Winfield then asked me in front of the staff, "Chaplain, how can we get you back next year?" I was extremely honored.

Linzey, a Southern Baptist chaplain, had parents who also were the first in their fields of endeavors. Linzey was a Navy dependent. His father, Stanford E. Linzey, Jr., was a World War II hero as a survivor of Japan's attack on the USS Yorktown in the Battle of Midway. He later became the first active duty Navy chaplain representing the General Council of the Assemblies of God and their first chaplain to attain the rank of Captain. His mother, Verna M. Linzey, was titled "United States Navy Mother of the Fleet" by Admiral Frederick C. Johnson for building the largest Sunday School program in the US Navy from 1968 to 1970 at Naval Air Station Moffett Field.Verna Linzey's CD, Oh Blessed Jesus, earned her a Gold Record Award for "Best Vocals in Southern Gospel Music." A world renowned evangelist, movie actress, and best-selling Charisma author, she is the former Verna May Hall of Coffeyville, Kansas, born to Carey and Alice Hall. Years after Verna's father passed away, her mother married Rev. Francis L. Doyle, an Assembly of God minister, who was one of the church leaders who gathered on April 2, 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas and established the Assemblies of God denomination.Linzey has given lectures on military history at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California. He said:

"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" was written in 1860 by an Englishman, William Whiting, for seafarers. It was eventually used as The Navy Hymn by the Royal navies of the British Commonwealth, and later by the American Navy. "Lord, Guard and Guide the Men Who Fly" was written in 1915 by Mary Hamilton for aviators. There was no Air Force. But after the Department of the Air Force was established, it was called The Air Force Hymn. When these hymns were written, the militaries and the field of civilian aviation were dominated by men. Though this may explain the male references, they can be interpreted today as inclusive male references.

By definition, a hymn is a prayer set to music or a song of praise to God. Every hymn for the various military services around the world is a prayer set to music. There is only one misnomer—"The United States Marine Corps Hymn" is neither a hymn nor a song of praise to God. It is a military march.

The song talks about the prowess of the Marines who fight for freedom. It depicts the Marines beginning at the Halls of Montezuma and finally pulling guard duty in heaven. It is called a hymn as a spoof, humorously exaggerating the US Marines' importance in claiming in the very last line that the Army and the Navy will find them guarding the streets of heaven. It is a very effective march, but it is neither a prayer nor a song of praise to God. It was never intended to be genuinely regarded as a hymn. It is a fun song, greatly lifts the Marines' morale, and evokes patriotism from the citizenry. You can neither pray these lyrics nor sing them as an act of worship.

As a former US Marine myself, I can tell you what military hymn the Marine Corps uses in chapel services. Being part of the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps sings The Navy Hymn at the close of its chapel services, which are pastored by Navy chaplains. But in joint-service patriotic programs, The US Marine Corps Hymn is performed along with the other services' military marches, not with their hymns, because it is not a hymn.

In other words, each of the Armed Forces usually has two songs, a hymn and a march. Both are songs, but not all songs are hymns and marches. Likewise, ballads and overtures are songs, but not all songs are ballads and overtures. Hymns and marches constitute their own respective genres, just as ballads and overtures do.

Thus, The Air Force Hymn is "Lord, Guard and Guide the Men Who Fly," but the Air Force song is a march titled "Wild Blue Yonder." Whether the Army has a hymn is debatable, but its song is a march titled "The Army Goes Rolling Along." The Coast Guard Hymn is verse one of The Navy Hymn, but its song is a march titled "Semper Paratus." The US Marine Corps uses The Navy Hymn just as the Coast Guard does, but its song is a march titled, in jest, "The United States Marine Corps Hymn." The Navy Hymn is "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," but the Navy song is a march titled "Anchors Aweigh." And The Space Force Hymn is "Creator of the Universe," but the Space Force has no march yet.

When asked what response he has received regarding The Space Force Hymn, Linzey said, "I have received thousands of phone calls, emails, and letters from Space Force and Air Force personnel, civilians, military chaplains, choir directors, and pastors from across America. I am humbled and honored at the reception of 'Creator of the Universe.' With the gender neutral language inserted, I have every assurance that even more people will like it," Linzey said.

Linzey's former superior chaplain at the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command, Vandenberg AFB, Lieutenant Colonel Jerold L. Preston, now retired, who served as the Wing Chaplain, once wrote of Linzey, "Chaplain Linzey's holistic approach to people was a plus for our mission. Chaplain Linzey is an outstanding chaplain with a bright future – great asset to the Air Force."

In closing, Linzey stated, "I'm very pleased and humbled to make a vital contribution and spiritual impact on both current and future generations of the United States Space Force, as a former United States Air Force Space Command chaplain and officer, through writing the United States Space Force Hymn."


SOURCE Former Sgt. Dennis A. Hall, Sr., USMC-Ret.