In 1961, as Green Berets from Fort Bragg, N.C., were about to be sent to Laos to train the Royal Laotian army to fight communists, Chaplain John Stevey was asked to write a prayer.
Gen. William Yarborough, then-commanding officer of the U.S. Army Special Forces, told Stevey he wanted to remind the soldiers of the spiritual nature of their work.
“But I had to write it so that it could be used by many faiths,” Stevey says. “He wanted it made so it could be put on a card in men’s wallets.”
Stevey came up with a prayer that makes no mention of Jesus, but captures the spirit — and the spirituality — of the men and women of the Special Forces. The prayer has become a part of these elite warriors’ culture.
What started as a prayer on a wallet card soon became ingrained into the Special Forces community. At the conclusion of Special Forces training, soldiers are feted at a regimental dinner. Along with being outfitted with their Green Berets, they receive a copy of the Special Forces Prayer.
The prayer is etched into a large stained-glass window above the entryway at JFK Memorial Chapel at Fort Bragg. It’s included in special Bibles issued to all Special Forces troops. It has been set to music and pressed into records. And, with the Army’s blessing, it can even be found on a variety of T-shirts and sweatshirts.
“It is very much a part of who Special Forces are. It’s part of our heritage, part of what we are,” says Col. Paul Vicalvi, command chaplain of Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg.