The 2020 Parade Grand Marshal is:
Lt. Col. Edward Coyle (RET),
chaplain of the 213th Regional Support Group
ALLENTOWN, PA, UNITED STATES
Story by Sgt. Zane Craig
ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Lt. Col. Edward Coyle, chaplain of the 213th Regional Support Group and a Girardville native, celebrated his final mass in uniform Aug. 3 at the Allentown Readiness Center.
Coyle served in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard for nearly 22 years, while continuing his full-time duties as a priest and pastor.
“I was the priest right down the street from the armory, and the Soldiers invited me to come,” said Coyle.
Coyle said part of the calling to be a chaplain in the Army came from the Soldiers’ invitation. He used to just come to the armory to say mass when needed and then leave. But then he approached the bishop about joining, and the bishop was immediately supportive.
Balancing the full-time job of running a parish with care for the spiritual and emotional needs of Soldiers of the 213th Regional Support Group would not work without a wide network of mutual support.
“The Guard has been very flexible and supportive when I’ve needed to be at the parish, no one has ever complained, and from the parish itself, many of them are Soldiers in the National Guard, so they were very supportive of me, and I’m very proud of the fact that I wear a uniform,” said Coyle.
Coyle currently serves as pastor of The Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, in Bally, where many parishioners are veterans or Soldiers, or have children or grandchildren serving.
“More than anything, I’ll miss his enthusiastic presence, someone you can always count on for a smile, a good morning, and to engage with Soldiers on a daily basis whenever we have drill,” said Col. Mark McCormack, commander, 213th Regional Support Group, and a Reinholds native.
“He never seems consumed with anything too serious, and that allows him to be cognizant of how the Soldiers are doing,” he said.
One of the ways Coyle supported the 213th was by mentoring 1st Lt. Ezekial Mack, chaplain candidate with the 213th Regional Support Group and a Pennsburg native.
“I’ve been here serving under Chaplain Coyle since my very first day back in 2010, and as a chaplain candidate, your supervising chaplain is a very important part of your growth as a Soldier and even in ministry,” said Mack.
“Chaplain Coyle has been a fantastic mentor and his experience, even though we come from different faith backgrounds, has been invaluable as a friend and mentor,” he said.
Chaplains have a duty to provide guidance for Soldiers of all religious backgrounds, not just members of their own denomination.
“I think that was one of the unique things about being a chaplain, you do get to go beyond your own faith community. Being able to provide for the spiritual needs of Soldiers from other faiths presents a challenge but it’s a good challenge,” said Coyle.
After Coyle delivered his final mass in uniform, the 213th gave him a brief retirement ceremony followed by a cookout lunch.
“Having an event like this for someone like Chaplain Coyle is indicative of the sacrifices all Soldiers make, but even more so in his case, because as a Catholic priest, he has a congregation that needs him every day of the week, yet he still finds the time and has the concern for the individual well-being of the Soldiers that allows him to sacrifice some of his free time here,” said McCormack.
Coyle said he sees the 213th Regional Support group as exactly what the name describes, a group that supports each other through good times and bad.
“I think the incoming chaplain, whoever they may be, is so lucky, so blessed to have this opportunity because they will be given so much by these Soldiers.
These people really do care for each other. I always liked the idea that we’re a support group. I’ve always felt that support, and I’m sure the new chaplain will feel the same,” he said.
“I handle the sacred things every day at mass, the body and blood of Christ, and as a Soldier you handle the sacred lives of other Soldiers, and there’s nothing more sacred than peoples’ lives.”