Meet CFB Esquimalt’s Senior Fleet Chaplain

Major Daniel Walton, Senior Fleet Chaplain at CFB Esquimalt.

Kateryna Bandura 

Military members often seek spiritual guidance from their chaplains, yet the specifics of a chaplain’s work are often shrouded in mystery.

Major Daniel Walton, Senior Fleet Chaplain at CFB Esquimalt, says the job of a chaplain is not a typical nine to five job.

“You look after the spiritual well-being of your unit or your ship. It’s our responsibility to go out to where people are. This helps us be seen and they feel more confident to come see us when they need,” he says.

Chaplains belong to a purple trade, meaning they can do their jobs in any element. Since being sworn into the military in 2014, Maj Walton has travelled across Canada and around the world, and worked with all three military elements. Now, he leads a team of four chaplains, including himself, at CFB Esquimalt.

The secret to being a great chaplain, he says, is dedication.

“I try to not just fix the problem and move on, but to walk somebody through their experiences. Then we can find a way to deal with it,” he says, adding that it helps to always have a pocket full of candy.

Maj Daniel Walton’s path offered him many opportunities to fulfil his mission to do greater good.

Dehydrated jerky and toy trucks

Maj Walton changed a family’s life while he was deployed to Iceland for Operation Reassurance in May-June 2017. While on the mission, he raised funds for a charity that helped families with terminally ill children.

“One guy had a dehydrator and he made jerky just for fun. People would kick in 10 bucks just to pay for the meat he used and that money would go into the box. Somebody had clippers, so people started cutting each other’s hair and donating after they were done. The CO was a runner, so he ran a marathon from Reykjavik to Keflavik, and people sponsored him, either so much per kilometre or so much for the entire race,” he says.

They had a hard time convincing the charity about their intentions, but the team wanted to show the locals they were there to contribute to the community.

The crew raised over $2,200, which they presented to the charity during a small reception. The following day, the team got to meet one of the families.

“Here we are, these guys in uniform, and we’re right down on the floor, playing with this little guy with his trucks and cars. His parents were just over the moon with excitement,” he says. “The father could speak some English, the mom really struggled. But when you’re down on the floor playing with trucks with a four-year-old, every language communicates equally.”

Remembering the fallen

One of the most emotional experiences he had was assisting a family during the 25th anniversary of the Boxtop Flight 22 crash. During the commemorative ceremony in 2016 in Trenton, Maj Walton provided support to two children, who lost their mother in the crash.

“They weren’t sure if they wanted to go, but when it was all done, they said this day needed to happen,” he says.

In October of 1991, the Boxtop Flight 22 crashed a few kilometres from the runway on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, killing five crew members. The anniversary was the first time in 25 years the survivors were all together.

As the participants finished the dinner, a lady asked to have one final roll call.

“It was the spookiest thing ever,” Maj Walton says. “Every one of them, with emotion in their voice, would answer their name when she would call it, and when she would call a name of a person that passed, the room was dead silent.”

Teaching opportunities

Before coming to Esquimalt, Maj Walton prepared new chaplains for their first chaplain course at Canadian Forces Chaplain School and Center in Borden. The school teaches chaplains basic procedures such as the duty process, notification process, basic chain of commands, and provides courses on counselling, ethics and deployed operations.

Now, he is hoping to help advise on changes to the training system.

“Our society has changed, that’s just a reality. So, we’ve been looking at how we can better train people for chaplaincy ministry in 2022,” he says.

As much as chaplains help others, Maj Walton says it is important to have a strong support system for yourself. Sometimes it means going for a walk, calling a friend, or treating yourself to some ice cream. His favourite flavour?

“It sounds cheesy, based on my job, but probably heavenly hash. It has to have marshmallows in it; if it doesn’t have marshmallows then it’s not the real deal,” says Maj Walton.

Major Daniel Walton, Senior Fleet Chaplain at CFB Esquimalt

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