Ok, this is the question I've gotten most frequently when people hear of my prior Marine service (18 yrs) and then find out that I'm planning on being an Army chaplain. To be honest, it was a bit of a struggle for me, as I had originally planned on doing exactly that, and it took quite a bit of work for me to change my mind.
Briefly then, here is my reasoning:
- First, having spent so many years in the Marines, my desire (as a chaplain) would be to continue that by serving with Marine units whenever/wherever possible. This in itself isn't a bad thing, but I felt that I would in some ways be less-than-enthusiastic about the (necessary) assignments I would have to have with the "blue" side - those strictly Navy assignments where there's not a Jarhead in sight. I felt that I would in some ways be "chomping at the bit" to get back to "my" Marines, and that my ministry to those sailors might suffer as a result.
- Next, I also believed that my wanting to be a "Marine chaplain" had something to do with my continued ability to wear the Marine uniform and associate with my fellow "devil dogs." All of which seemed to boil down to a pride issue - I didn't want to give up the pride that came with being affiliated with the Marine Corps, and pride isn't exactly the best trait to have as a chaplain - humility is much better.
- Lastly, I felt that when I was with the Marines, there might be a tendency to want to revert to a Marine officer mentality; that is, I could potentially forget my proper role as a chaplain and instead let my 12 years as a Marine officer begin to color my advice and recommendations - all of which would run counter to my ultimate purpose and efforts as a chaplain.
In the end, I realized that I had to be willing to give up all those personal pride issues that were so near and dear to me, and get down to what really mattered: serving those men & women in our nation's armed forces by ministering to their spiritual, mental and emotional needs. Now, as a soon-to-be Army chaplain, I find that my clarity of purpose is much better; every time I don my Army ACUs I am again reminded that it's not all about me - it's not about the uniform, the rank, or any of the shiny bits they may give me to wear. It's about service. As the Apostle Paul said, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings..."
- 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, NIV