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Chaplain (Col.) Cecil Richardson, left, and Chaplain (Capt.) Steve Richardson are the only father/son chaplain team in the Air Force. They had a reunion last week when the father visit England, where the son serves at RAF Alconbury.
Chaplain (Col.) Cecil Richardson, left, and Chaplain (Capt.) Steve Richardson are the only father/son chaplain team in the Air Force. They had a reunion last week when the father visit England, where the son serves at RAF Alconbury. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

RAF ALCONBURY, England — Sons often follow their fathers into the family business, whether it is practicing law, building buildings, selling fruit or, in the case of the Richardsons, saving the souls of airmen.

Chap. (Col.) Cecil Richardson and Chap. (Capt.) Steve Richardson are the only father-and-son chaplain duo in the Air Force.

“We’re it,” the father said. They said they know of no other father-son chaplain team in the military.

The colonel, who visited England last week to take part in the international prayer breakfast at several bases, is director of the Air Force Chaplain Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Son Steve is chaplain at RAF Alconbury.

The senior Richardson said the Air Force would never run short of chaplains if each one followed his lead “and donated their firstborn son.”

Capt. Richardson, now 30, was a small boy, the oldest of three sons, when his father joined the Air Force chaplaincy.

“He and his brothers grew up in the chapel,” said the father, 56, who had been in the Air Force four years as an enlisted man before becoming a chaplain. “He helped me with Sunday School. He and I used to do nursing home ministries on the side.”

But it was not preordained that the younger Richardson would become a minister or a chaplain. His talents and interests were in math and science.

“In college, I had four majors in two years,” he said to point out the trouble he had deciding what to do with his life.

But on a private spiritual retreat into the woods, he said, he heard a call from God to join the ministry. He began to dream of himself serving airmen.

“From those dreams, I knew I was being called into the military as a chaplain,” he said.

Far from supporting the decision wholeheartedly, the father tried to convince the son to change his mind.

“He tried to talk me out of it. Not the ministry, the chaplaincy,” Capt. Richardson said. “He knew it was rough.”

Col. Richardson said, “I figured it was the least I could do. It’d be very, very easy for him to be following me and not following God.”

Capt. Richardson is the only son to follow the father’s career choice. Jim, 27, is legislative director for U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas, the former Olympic track champion. Mike, 23, is an electrical engineer at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Both, their father said, are active in their churches.

The mother, Jan, is an education consultant.

The senior Richardson came to God as a young man. He was the son of a violent father, he said. He, too, was a violent man, never backing down from a fight and dedicating his life to chasing girls.

But one day, he ventured into a chapel and his life turned around.

“God sure did a number on me that morning,” he said.

That call to the ministry has convinced him that a chaplain’s main thrust must be toward the singles. He and his son share a dedication to that audience.

Reach a person who is already past the age of 50, Col. Richardson said, and it is a great thing, but the impact is limited.

“If you reach a person when they are single, you affect the person they marry, their children,” he said. “You affect the rest of their life and everyone they meet.”

Capt. Richardson is a fixture at the dormitories at RAF Alconbury where he meets and ministers to the young airmen.

“He’s like a Pied Piper for singles,” the father said.

The two men talk regularly. They are close, not just as father and son, but as friends, with a natural give-and-take.

“We’re kind of joined at the hip in many ways,” the father said. “I’ve often said of Steve that when God made Steve, he made a smile and attached a body to it.”

The son said his father is a valuable asset for him in his current job.

“I call him all the time. He’s a mentor. He’s my father. He’s my friend,” he said. “I have to rely on him. He’s seen so much more in the military than I have. It’d be horrible for me to waste a resource like that.”

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