Army 1st Lt. Rafael Lantigua, an ecclesiastically endorsed, fully ordained minister, will assume his post after finishing classes required by the Armed Services Chaplain Board.“I am humbled for this opportunity to be a role model for other members of my faith throughout the military,” he said.As he was growing up, Lantigua was not a Muslim. He decided to convert when he was a teenager, he said, and he attributed that decision to the diversity of his background. His Baptist mother is an African-American, and his Roman Catholic father is from the Dominican Republic. After his parents divorced, he said, his mother married a Buddhist.“Growing up in such diversity caused me to explore my options,” Lantigua said.That diversity, he said, enabled him to embrace the Muslim faith before he enlisted in the Air Force. He has continued to be open about his religious beliefs, he added, in the hope that he can break down the stigma surrounding Muslims since Sept. 11, 2001.
Photo: Army 1st Lt. Rafael Lantigua, right, of the Texas National Guard shakes hands with Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a Ramadan dinner in Washington, D.C. Lantigua will become the Guard's first Muslim chaplain in December 2010. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Darron Salzer.