Unveiling the heart of an Air Force Chaplain

  • Published
  • By SrA Lauren Cobin
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing
Walking through the corridors of a correctional facility on his way to lead service, he would approach the window of a cell, only to be greeted by his own reflection.

“This could be me,” he said. “In some ways with my past journey, it was me. It reminds me of what I needed when I was in a really low place.”

The armed forces community is unique in experiences, service and sacrifice. At the heart of this community stands a beacon of compassion and leadership, who has an unwavering commitment to those he serves.

From his unconventional entry into the military, to the legacy he is building through his son, Air Force Capt. Kory Capps' story is one of depth, empathy, and the sacred bond between a father, leader and patriot.

Capps, who currently serves as chaplain at MacDill Air Force Base, brought a wealth of experiences to the Air Force as he joined the service later in life.

Before representing the Air Force, he spent 16 years navigating the complexities of a correctional environment as a prison chaplain.

"Everything I learned to do as a chaplain, I learned to do there," Capps emphasized.

His journey was not one of linear progression, but has been influenced from his own past mistakes and transformation. Capps' personal experiences of overcoming challenges and hardship has played a significant role in his approach to chaplaincy.

“My faith in Him is at my core,” Capps said. “What He has done in my own journey and my own life, showing up in my places of deepest, darkest hopelessness and pain informs who I am and how I operate.”

The image of his reflection in the cell window always stuck with Capps. Because of this, he carries a deep sense of compassion and recognizes that everyone has a story, often defined by their worst moments.

“Sometimes we are all just one step away from being in a really bad situation,” Capps recalls. "Seeing yourself in others at their lowest and being able to engage with compassion is an experience that shapes me as a person and as a chaplain."

As Capps transitioned to military service, he highlights that there is no greater honor than to wear the cross on his own uniform.

“It’s reflective of what I believe, but also the pattern and model that I desire to follow,” he said. “I want to embody that kind of compassion and generosity and sacrificial care for people that I believe that this occupational badge actually symbolizes. That means meeting people where they are, no matter what.”

Not only is Capps a chaplain, but a loving father of four children. His journey into fatherhood brought profound changes to his life, as it does for many.

"The whole world changed when we had kids," Capps recalls.

He describes parenthood as both rewarding and challenging, and as a constant mirror reflecting his own growth and shortcomings.

This responsibility has opened his eyes to the resilience and endurance displayed by military families, a perspective he deeply appreciates as he watches his own children navigate through life.

He describes his daughter, Adele, as a little patriot. She has only known the world as a military child.

“She has experienced all the deployments, all the TDYs and I have missed a lot of her birthdays,” he reflects. “We have gone through a lot together.”

Recalling his most recent deployment, Capps shared Adele’s profound impact on the team abroad. Adele would write letters to members deployed with her father each Friday, a ritual which became known as “Fridays with Adele.”

Adele shares, “I wrote the letters because I know what it is like with my dad deploying. I know that families can miss each other and I wanted to support them [the service members] while they were missing their families.”

A proud father reflects on his daughter’s words often, “There was never a dry eye.”

The legacy of service runs deep in the Capps family. With his son's decision to serve, Capps' perspective on leadership and mentorship expanded on new levels.

“I feel like heritage is a big part of why I joined,” said his son, Karter Capps, a defender assigned to the 66th Security Forces Squadron. “I wouldn’t have joined the Air Force, or even the military in general, if it wasn’t for my dad.”

“I now understand just how hard he works and what it means to be in the United States military,” Karter insists.

Chaplain Capps emphasizes how military leaders are entrusted with the care of the Nation's most precious assets—people's sons and daughters. He frequently asks those leaders he mentors, "Would I trust you with my son?"

Drawing wisdom from great leaders before him, Capps shares an influential quote from Sun Tzu, "Treat your soldiers like sons and daughters, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys."

Capps hopes to encourage leaders to embrace this approach, recognizing the lasting impact they can have on young lives.

Chaplain Kory Capps' story is a testament to transformation, faith, and service. His unique journey, from civilian life to the Air Force, shaped by his roles as a father and mentor, offers a heartfelt insight into the lives of those who serve. With his compassion, wisdom, and dedication, he continues to inspire those around him, leaving a lasting impact.