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Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) joined the rest of the nation in observing the National Day of Prayer May 1.

This year’s national theme was “One Voice United in Prayer,” and was observed at WRNMMC with a prayer breakfast and service of prayer and reflection. Prayers were said for the nation, its leaders, military members, their families, the sick and suffering, Walter Reed Bethesda staff, patients, the medical center, the world, and for peace, freedom and justice.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, WRNMMC director, welcomed attendees to the prayer breakfast. “I always find it interesting we have a month or day dedicated to something we do all the time,” said the general. “I don’t mean that in a negative way, because as I thought about it [observances] remind us, and give us an opportunity to recommit ourselves to something we ought to be thinking about more than just one month or day.” He added, “Having prayer in our lives is a good thing.”

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Donald Francisco was the guest speaker at the WRNMMC prayer breakfast. He discussed his spiritual journey through music. A former member of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps at Joint Base Myer-Henderson in Arlington, Va., Francisco played the flute and a variety of other items tailored to produce flute-like sounds. He currently works at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate as a history interpreter and resident Colonial fifer.

“I want to be an instrument of the Lord, so I pray that I can be in tune with Jesus,” Francisco said between playing various instruments. “We should also pray to be in harmony with one another,” he added.

Hospital Corpsman Jodie Hartman also performed during the prayer breakfast, singing songs of reflection and inspiration.

During the afternoon service of prayer and reflection in the hospital chapel at WRNMMC, Chaplain (Maj.) Stephen Pratel provided the opening prayer, and prayed for the world, peace, freedom and justice. Imam Mohammed Khan provided an Islamic perspective on the value of prayer, while Chaplain (Cmdr.) Barry Metzger gave a Christian perspective on the value of prayer, and prayed for the nation and its leaders. Chaplain (Maj.) Susan Caswell prayed for the military and military families, and Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Leslie Sias prayed for the sick and suffering, the Walter Reed Bethesda staff, patients and the medical center during the service.

“Prayer is an essential part of our lives,” Khan said. He added prayer involves submission and supplication. The imam explained in the Islamic tradition, prayer is an act for seeking guidance, forgiveness and mercy for all.

In praying for the nation and leaders, Metzger read from 1 Timothy Chapter 1, which states “prayers be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in authority, that people may lead peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness.”

Praying for the military, civilians and military families, Caswell said, “We honor and recognize the brave heroes who proudly wear the uniforms of our military services. Strengthen their resiliency as they confront the challenges of each day. We honor and recognize our civilians, contractors and volunteers for providing essential services and continuity for our country. Grant them energy as they face the demands of each day. Thank you for our families and friends. We pray for the safe return of all those in harm’s way and successful reunions of couples and families, and the smooth reintegration of our veterans.”

Sias urged those who are sick and suffering to “cast their cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you” as it states in Psalms 55:22. He added the Lord uses the WRNMMC staff as “vessels and instruments” to do his work as in the verse from Matthew 10:42, which states, “Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward.”

In his prayer, Pratel asked that “Peace will come upon this earth, and God will be exulted.”

Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through U.S. history. The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, according to

In his 2014 proclamation for the National Day of Prayer, President Barak Obama states, “One of our nation’s great strengths is the freedom we hold dear, including the freedom to exercise our faiths freely. For many Americans, prayer is an essential act of worship and a daily discipline. Today and every day, forgiveness and reconciliation will be sought through prayer. Across our country, Americans give thanks for our many blessings, including the freedom to pray as our consciences dictate….let us carry forward our nation’s tradition of religious liberty, which protects Americans’ rights to pray and to practice our faiths as we see fit.”

For more information for Pastoral Care services, call 301-295-1510, or after hours and weekends, call the Command Duty Officer (CDO) Desk at 301-295-4633, option 3, and ask to have the duty chaplain paged.