Chaplain Matthew Ward: Inspiring troops at President’s Inauguration
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Feb 03, 2013 | 1464 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chaplain Matthew Ward
MATTHEW WARD, a National Guard chaplain and pastor of West Cleveland Baptist Church, volunteered to serve with some 6,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen to provide crowd control, security and medical support during the swearing in ceremony of President Barack Obama in the nation’s capitol on Jan. 21. Ward, far right, is seen standing in front of the White House with Pfc. Jordan Allman, left, and Sgt. Christopher Newbill, center.
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Matthew Ward, a National Guard chaplain, was one of 6,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 26 states deployed to the capital in Washington, D.C. to manage crowds and traffic, as well as provide security and medical support during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

He was among only 250 Army and air troops from Tennessee used to handle traffic control and crowd control.

The Cleveland resident became part of the “advance party troop command” who went ahead of everyone else to get things set up. He arrived in Washington on Jan. 17 and left Jan. 22, the day after the inaugural events

Ward, who also serves as pastor of West Cleveland Baptist Church, said, “It was a real privilege being there and I’d gladly do it again. It was my first time in D.C., but it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be. It was different. The crowds and traffic were bad, but I thought it was going to be impossible. It wasn’t that bad. They gave us about a half a day to visit the city — see the Smithsonian and tour the National Guard Museum.”

With hundreds of thousands of people using the subway system because of the inauguration, Ward said he knew the task of the National Guard was not going to be easy, but it was something members were prepared to handle.

“When they started asking for volunteers to go on this mission, I said I would be glad to go,” Ward recalled. “Initially, they wanted military police to come and assist the D.C. National Guard and civilian law enforcement with crowd control. With Metro [mass transit] being the biggest transportation there, they didn’t want overcrowded people getting pushed out in front of trains. So they had our guys from Tennessee there — at every station — to try to control the crowds from becoming too large at those specific moments.

“Once they were stationed, my job was to visit all the soldiers from station to station and uplift their spirits. It was a cold day and a long day — in the 20 degrees. They had to be on their points by 4 in the morning. The day went until 8 that night. They had two shifts. We were staying at an abandoned elementary school. They had to leave there at 2 a.m. and didn’t come off their shift until noon.”

Of around 250 Army and air troops from Tennessee, Ward said 109 were from the Cleveland unit — the 252nd Military Police Company — all of whom he knew.

Explaining why he was eager to go, Ward, who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps, said, “They teach you in chaplain school what they call ‘ministry of presence.’ What they mean by that is — wherever soldiers are, that’s where you need to be. That way you can build relationships. So when things do happen, you can step in and you’re already a friend — someone they’re already comfortable with.

“When I see an event like this happen and they ask for volunteers, I think this is a prime opportunity to do some ‘ministry of presence’ — just to go and be with guys. It was extremely important for me because on a typical drill weekend — by the time you get there and get settled in, it’s about time to start packing up. It’s a very short time when you get their Saturday morning and leave by Sunday afternoon. So when you have an opportunity to spend a week with the guys and they see you’re willing to get out and walk all over D.C. to spend a little time with them — you make a lot of inroads — it makes ministry easier to do in the future.”

Ward said it was a privilege to keep the morale of the men up and offer them whatever assistance they needed, along with a few snacks. But for him and the troops from Tennessee, it was not about spotting politicians, famous celebrities or well-known newscasters at the Presidential Inauguration.

“We passed through the parade route several times to travel from point to point to see our guys at the station,” Ward said. “When the actual inauguration happened, when the swearing in took place, we were en route to see our guys at the station. Everything we saw was at a distance. We could hear it well, depending on where you were. A lot of our day was spent in subway stations and underground Metro transportation. We had special passes to help us move around. The guys who went with me walked around Washington for about 15 hours that day. We were all beat at the end of that.”

After returning home for a little rest and relaxation, Ward said he is partnering with his old church, Wildwood Baptist Church in Englewood and taking his first international missions trip to Jamaica Feb. 4 to 11 — something he is looking forward to.

“It’s a place in Jamaica where they don’t have a lot, but they have a lot of joy,” he said. “We’re going with the mindset of helping them build a roof on someone’s house and build beds for people who don’t have beds — things like that.”

Ward, 30, who was in the U.S. Marines from 2001 to 2006, said he started as a chaplain candidate in 2006, when he transferred from one department to the other and was first commissioned in the National Guard. He graduated as a chaplain with a master’s degree on Dec. 10, 2008, and has been serving as such ever since.

He and his wife, Tara, are expecting their second child.