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Ground broken for 'place of spiritual renewal' at Camp Williams

BLUFFDALE — With flags blowing in the stiff early afternoon breeze on the hills overlooking picturesque Utah Valley, 17 gold-painted shovels plunged into loose dirt, ceremonially breaking ground for Sunrise Hall, a much-needed "place of spiritual renewal" at Utah's Camp Williams.

"This will be a monument to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, as well as those who came home from war with wounds both seen and unseen," said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, Utah National Guard adjutant general, who presided at Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony for Sunrise Hall, a new worship center on Camp Williams' grounds.

"We need a place for soldiers and their families, a place of spiritual renewal," Gen. Burton told some 200 dignitaries and uniformed soldiers who had gathered at the construction site. "This place will be much-used."

Although there is currently a chapel at Camp Williams, retired chaplain Lynn Humphreys said there is "no building at Camp Williams more in need of replacement than the chapel." Officials describe the existing World War II vintage facility as "poorly furnished, seldom used" and a "rather unattractive setting for worship or spiritual renewal."

"It has served its time," Humphreys said. "Retirement has come. The writer of Ecclesiastes said there is 'a time to break down and a time to build up.' This would be that time."

Moved by what one person called "the spirit of love for our soldiers and their families," Camp Williams officials looked to Utah's business and interfaith communities for help with the project. Because National Guard funds cannot be used for the building of military chapels, donors were found to help finance the $2 million needed for construction of a 11,000-square-foot facility that will feature a chapel for worship, seminar and conference rooms, chaplain offices and other facilities to meet the spiritual needs of the thousands of soldiers who work and train at Camp Williams ever year.

Principal donors include the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Zions Bank and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"When we first became aware of the need, there was an instantaneous response from (LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson) and the First Presidency," said Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the church's Presiding Bishopric. "We believe we have an unpayable debt of gratitude to those who so valiantly serve the United States of America."

In that sense, Bishop Davies said, the church's contribution to Sunrise Hall (which includes design and engineering assistance as well as financial contributions) is a way of saying, "Thank you. We think of you. We pray for you every day."

"Our simple desire is that this new facility will be a place of hope, a place of comfort, a place of consolation, a place of personal inspiration for all who come to worship or to just ponder and pray," Bishop Davies said.

Completion of Sunrise Hall is expected in the fall of 2014.