Flooded with grace, Army Reserve captain named chaplain of the year

By Sgt. Audrey Hayes | 321st Sustainment Brigade | July 23, 2017

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — In August 2016, more than 20 inches of rainfall caused a massive flood in Louisiana, submerging thousands of homes and businesses. According to the Red Cross, it was considered the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast four years prior.

The Federal Government intervened to provide relief rescue, but one U.S. Army Reserve chaplain in particular visited flooded homes to provide spiritual relief to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Because of his selfless service, Capt. Doug Daspit, received the Chaplain of the Year award during the Reserve Officers Association National Convention, which took place in Crystal City, Virginia, on July 22.

Daspit is a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain with the 321st Sustainment Brigade and a pastor at the Crescent City Community Church in New Orleans. Prior to this flood, Daspit ministered to the community when Hurricane Katrina hit the region in 2005. Now, he was at it again, this time focusing on serving Soldiers and their families.

“To be recognized this way really means a lot to me, because it paints a picture of what it means to be a Citizen-Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve component,” said Daspit.

Daspit’s original call to ministry was never to serve in the military, but to serve his community through faith. After Hurricane Katrina, he spent the next few years restoring public parks, working in schools, gutting houses and spending time with the homeless in the French Quarter, which doesn’t fall under the duties of a traditional church pastor.

“I just fell in love with serving my community in different ways, and that is what led me to putting on the uniform,” said Daspit. “I wanted to serve Soldiers in my community.”

While it is rare that the Army Reserve is called on for national disasters, Daspit took initiative to help Soldiers on his own time and was later put on military orders.

“It was really a selfless act,” said Col. Cynthia E. Cook, commander of 321st Sust. Bde. “He went above and beyond what a chaplain would normally do. I didn’t ask him to do it. No one prompted him to do it. It was just something in him.”

Daspit provided one-on-one pastoral counseling to 38 Soldiers and their families. He prayed with many of them in flooded homes.

“I remember visiting a first sergeant whose home was completely flooded. We walked into his bedroom, and there was mud on the floors, and it smelled musty. But in the midst of everything that had been cleared out, sitting on the ground was a wet, muddy unit patch. It was that moment, a sort of reminder that we were the ones effected; a little muddy, but still here,” he recalled.

So, what happens after the water recedes and mud, muck and tragedy seeps into the cornerstones of a home? For the Soldiers in the 321st Sust. Bde., they responded, came together and lent a helping hand. Many of the troops who were devastated by the floods had also lived through Hurricane Katrina. This gave them experience in gutting homes, removing mold and navigating the bureaucratic process of applying for federal assistance. Daspit visited one of his Soldier during the rebuilding process, only to find three other Soldiers from his unit helping out.

“In many ways, what I did is just a representation of what other Army Reserve Soldiers in our unit did after the storm, and if me getting this award brings light on that, then I’m happy,” said Daspit.

Relying on past, civilian experience coupled with a military culture of service, Daspit and fellow U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 321st Sust. Bde. came together to serve their brothers and sisters in Baton Rouge. They met adversity with resiliency and proved themselves twice the citizen.