WASHINGTON -- Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff, promoted Howard D. Stendahl to the rank of major general Aug. 31 during a ceremony at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.
Stendahl, who was recently appointed as the seventeenth Air Force Chief of Chaplains, now holds the highest rank an Air Force chaplain can attain.
"We aren't just pinning on a new major general in the U.S. Air Force. We're not just recognizing our new chief of chaplains for the Air Force. We're celebrating the life of service to a pretty significant degree," said Welsh, who was the vice commander at Air Education and Training Command where Stendahl was the command chaplain.
Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., the chaplain served as a civilian parish pastor for eight years before joining the Air Force in 1985, something he dreamed of from a young age.
"His dad taught him all about faith and love of country; his mom taught him the people who matter most in this world are the people who are kind hearted and steadfast," said Welsh. "From the time he could remember, he combined those things into a desire to be a chaplain, and he wanted to be a military chaplain from age 7 on."
During the ceremony, Welsh talked about many of Stendahl's accomplishments leading up to his new appointment that included the chaplain's being recognized as one of the wing's top leaders during an operational readiness inspection when he was the senior protestant chaplain at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and expanding the chaplain engagement program to 19 countries while he was command chaplain for U.S. European Command.
Throughout his career, family was never far.
"I want to begin, and I want to end with my gratitude for God's greatest gift to me. Without you, there would be no promotion, no chaplain corps experience for me, no ordination and, most importantly, no Dan, Ben or Tim," Stendahl said to his wife Patty, as he presented her with 40 roses to symbolize their 40 years of marriage.
That dedication to family is also something recognized by many who have known him.
"This guy is all about family," Welsh said. "It's what makes him such a wonderful chaplain, officer and man. And, it's why he's sitting in that chair today."