Petty officer wins new Navy religion award
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — A young woman walked into the chapel office and asked for help.
“You can usually tell in their eyes if they want to see somebody immediately,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Janaee Stone. “And sometimes it just can’t wait.”
In her job as a religious program specialist, Stone meets battered wives, sailors in debt and people who are lonely or depressed.
“RPs” set up chapels for services and order brochures, but when a servicemember or family member is in trouble and turns to their chapel for help, the first person they encounter might be with someone like Janaee Stone.
“She said she wanted to speak to a Protestant chaplain,” Stone said of the young woman. “I could tell she’d been crying.”
On Jan. 7, the 24-year-old Stone (her first name is pronounced Ja-NAY) was named the Navy’s Religious Program Specialist of the Year for Europe.
RPs from Italy, England and Bahrain also were competing for the award, which was instituted this year.
Stone is now eligible for the servicewide honor.
Several times per day, Stone said, someone who needs help walks into the Rota chapel.
It may be a woman whose husband is cheating on her. A sailor in debt. A problem drinker. Someone who’s depressed.
Sometimes they phone the chapel.
“What happens if that person on the line is suicidal?” she asked. “I try to get them to open up. Usually they just want someone to talk to.”
The Rock Springs, Wyo., native has religious duties, too.
Stone organizes Bible studies, schedules weddings and baptisms, and provides support and materials for the Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Protestants or any other group that uses the chapel.
Even though Stone is a religious program specialist, she’s not a Bible-thumper.
She describes herself as Protestant but not of any faith.
She doesn’t know scripture or quote it.
“I wasn’t really religious at all before I became a religious program specialist,” she said. “I believed in God and prayed, but I wasn’t down with the Lord at all.
“Some people think in order to come in here you have to be religious. You can be an atheist and we’ll help you as best we can.”
Stone is being transferred in May to the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego. It’s a multipurpose attack ship with 1,300 sailors.
It will be Stone’s third ship, and she’s expecting to encounter sailors with marriage problems, family problems, depression. Sometimes these things happen to people at sea.
“I don’t do counseling,” Stone said. “I forward people to the chaplain.”
But as an advocate for Rota’s Sexual Assault Victim Intervention program, she has counseled people. Kay Kinghorn, the program’s former coordinator, said Stone logged more than 1,800 hours of on-call time.
“Janaee has a lot of energy and puts it to positive use,” said Kinghorn, now the health promotions director at the U.S. Navy Hospital in Rota.
“It’s not with a ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ attitude. She has a measure of expertise in this area and wants to share it with you.
“She’s able to assess an individual’s needs and read a person really well. She knows when to sit and listen or when to make suggestions on possible steps to take.”
Helping people provides it own rewards, Stone said.
“When someone walks in and needs my help and I get them a chaplain, and then later they come out and look in my door and say ‘thank you,’ you know you helped them,” she said.
“That’s probably the best thing about my job.”
A few days after the young woman walked into Rota’s chapel looking for help, Stone said she did not know what became of her.
Sometimes, she said, it’s not her business to know.
“But I do know she scheduled another appointment with a chaplain,” Stone said.