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Volunteers Busy Building Thunderbird Chapel At Camp Gruber

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Volunteers at the chapel construction site. Volunteers at the chapel construction site.
Volunteers at the chapel construction site. Volunteers at the chapel construction site.
National Guard officer talking to the volunteers. National Guard officer talking to the volunteers.
Volunteers at the chapel construction site. Volunteers at the chapel construction site.

Craig Day, News On 6

CAMP GRUBER, Oklahoma -- Volunteers are on a morale building mission for Oklahoma's military men and women.

The walls are going up on a new chapel at Camp Gruber, the first chapel since the military base opened nearly 70 years ago.

"They're pumped to know they're helping to build a church," said Sam Porter of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

With the precision of a military mission, an army of volunteers is building a chapel at Camp Gruber, its first since opening in 1942.

"Every soldiers needs to be able to exercise his spiritual side," said Major General Myles Deering of the Oklahoma National Guard.

"I'm just thrilled, as an Oklahoman, as a minister, as a volunteer coordinator for all of Oklahoma," Porter said. "I'm really pumped about this deal."

Cash contributions and donations of materials and manpower worth more than $1 million are making it happen.

"The state of Oklahoma - not through tax dollars - but through private donations can say we appreciate you in a very significant way," Porter said.

9/7/2011 Related Story: Volunteers Build Thunderbird Chapel For Return Of Oklahoma's 45th Infantry

More than 100 volunteers, including members from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and World Mission, which builds churches around the globe, are raising walls, hammering nails and driving home a message to Oklahoma's soldiers.

"We appreciate them. We're thinking about them while they're over there, and we're just proud of what they're doing for us," said soldier Montana Dugger.

Montana Dugger is doing his part to make sure the Thunderbird Chapel is ready when his fellow soldiers from the 45th return from their deployment. 

"It just feels good, and I think they'll appreciate it," Dugger said.

The new chapel will be 10,500 square feet, with a 200 seat sanctuary. It will be a place of worship for soldiers training at Gruber and a place of comfort for those returning home from war.

"Makes me proud to be an Oklahoman that they'll come and help do this," said coordinator Gerry Shepherd.

Volunteers will work every day to finish most of the Chapel by Veterans Day and the rest by the time the 45th returns home.

"Everybody needs to find solace somewhere," said Major General Deering.

Volunteers are still working to raise the remaining $300,000 to pay for the rest of the project. It will be used for things like pews and hymn books, as well as landscaping.

For more information on the project and to learn how you can help, go to www.campgruberchapel.org/.

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