By Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing
Colonel (ret.) Janet Yarlott Horton was one of the first women and women chaplains in the United States military. A bright and energetic young woman planning to be a teacher and in college, she was contacted by officials in her own Christian Science church to see if she wished to train for the military chaplaincy. Women at that moment in history, the mid-1970s, had just begun to go into the United States Army. Men warily or even with hostility, were expected to accept the women as comrades in arms, and they weren’t at all ready to do that.
One does not enter the chaplaincy of America’s armed forces from a certain denomination. There were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chaplains. (Today there are also Muslim chaplains.)
Colonel Horton tells the story of studying in a tough graduate theological course and then serving an internship—graduating as a chaplain to be sent in 1977 to an army training area near Phoenix, Arizona. She would be a chaplain to all who considered themselves Protestants and some who just wanted to experience a faith community.
Janet was the “token woman” with the bunch of “guys.” They warned her their morning run into the desert would “be too much for you,” but she told them she was a seasoned long-distance runner. Into the desert they went, Janet with a bunch of skeptical men; as she tells the story in the book. As they loped in that early morning into along an unpopulated road a distance from settled areas, a pack of hungry, growling coyotes approached. The men climbed trees or hid, leaving her alone.
She told herself she was a chaplain, a person of faith with men from the army looking on.
“Having been ‘praying without ceasing,’ I felt very prepared. . . I prayed to hear the still small voice of God’s Word for this situation. What came to me was to ‘get down and speak to the lead dog.’” All the coyotes lay down as Janet knelt to speak to that lead dog.
She spoke as to a friend. “You have a purpose, but’s it’s not to harm me. And I have a purpose and it’s not to harm you. We need to be about our Father’s business, but it’s not here.”
She stood and pointed to the desert wilderness and the lead coyote trotted in that direction, followed by the others.
The men came forward from their hiding places, astonished, and they all spoke together about what having a woman with them meant, as they made an effort to understand what the new world of equality even in the armed forces would mean.
Scores of episodes in Colonel Horton’s distinguished career are explored in this remarkable book which has been a best-seller for Hawthorne Publishing, going around the world.
To come: Colonel Horton is at the Pentagon when it is attacked on 9/11.
To purchase her book Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling: Faith Persistence and Progress in the Army Chaplaincy During the Early integration of Women in the Military click back to the website.