Guard unit says goodbye to Father McCoy, welcome to Father Vit Published Nov. 1, 2008 By Kara Koczur Globe staff reporter Sioux City, Iowa -- On Oct. 4 Father Al McCoy celebrated his last Mass before retiring as auxiliary chaplain at the 185th Air National Guard in Sioux City. While his decade of chaplain service to the unit didn't include "safaris or stuff like that," Father McCoy said he still enjoyed celebrating Mass for the service men and women once a month. "Father McCoy has been what we call an auxiliary chaplain, where he's not a military member, but comes down here on Saturdays of drill to say Mass," said Lt. Col. Stephanie Samenus, public affairs officer for the 185th. "He's just there for spiritual guidance for people that would need it." Following Mass, Father McCoy was presented with the Iowa Meritorious Service Medal, which can be awarded to military members and civilians. "Father McCoy provided exemplary spiritual service and direction to the members of the 185th," said Lt. Col. Larry Christensen, chief of safety and pilot for the 185th, during the presentation of the medal. "He has been a consistent and stable shepherd. The specific accomplishments of Father McCoy reflect greatly upon himself, his vocation, the Diocese of Sioux City, the Iowa National Guard and the state of Iowa." The medal, Christensen said, was to help Father McCoy know that although he was never formally a military member of the unit, those at the 185th still viewed him as a member. The award is registered with the state. "I wanted to make sure he understood this wasn't just something we threw in the typewriter," he said. "[Father McCoy] is a decorated chaplain." Father McCoy was liked so much, Christensen said, that his family, along with many others would come out to the base once a month for his Masses. "You can't find a nicer guy," he said, adding that with the priest shortage facing the church today, the 185th was happy to have one. The standing joke was that the priest's homilies were direct and short, but Christensen said they were always packed with content. Father Marvin Boes, former chaplain, and Father William Vit also concelebrated at the Mass. The plan is that Father Vit will become the new chaplain of the 185th and actually join the unit, but it's pending paperwork approval by the Military Archdiocese and the Air Force. "The hope was that [the approval] would already be completed and I would be in the Guard as chaplain," Father Vit said. "So I'm just going to fill in and do what Father McCoy was doing until that paperwork comes through." A member of the Navy, Father Vit was previously in that military branch's chaplaincy program. If approved, he would have to undergo training for the Air Force, which would look at what his level of knowledge and expertise is from the Navy and then supplement that with additional schooling. If all goes as planned, Father Vit said he is most looking forward to the opportunity to evangelize as chaplain. "Anything a person can do to preach the Gospel I think is what we are ordained to do and are invited to do," he said. "I think that's what I look forward to doing." To celebrate Father McCoy's retirement and to welcome Father Vit, cake and ice cream was served after Mass. Father McCoy also attended the 185th retiree dinner that evening. "What am I going to miss most?" Father McCoy laughed. "Being able to get by the gate by just showing the card."