Gov. Mary Fallin asked for the public's help Tuesday in raising about $500,000 needed to build a chapel at the Army National Guard training post at Camp Gruber, which hasn't had a site for religious gatherings since the eastern Oklahoma post was reactivated more than 30 years ago.
Flanked by officials with the Oklahoma Army National Guard and several vendors who have donated materials and labor for the chapel's construction, Fallin said a nonprofit group has been set up to seek public donations and support.
"We're here today to ask the people of Oklahoma if they would like to join with an effort we've been working on for quite some time to raise money, or to give goods or even time or expertise, to help us build a beautiful chapel at Camp Gruber for our men and women who are serving our great nation," Fallin said.
A groundbreaking for the 10,500-square-foot interfaith Thunderbird Chapel is tentatively set for Sept. 7. The goal is to have construction of the facility completed by spring 2012, when about 3,200 soldiers with the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade return from Afghanistan and Kuwait. Thunderbird is a nickname of the 45th.
Established in 1942 as a military mobilization training post near Braggs, Camp Gruber was deactivated in 1947, and most of the existing structures — including 14 "prairie-style" chapels — were destroyed or moved off the post, said Glenn Short, an architect whose company has donated design plans for the building.
Camp Gruber was reactivated in 1977, but it remains without a chapel.