Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why I'm Not a Navy Chaplain

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


TanyaBee said...

Excellent thoughts! Wow. Funny, too, because last week I had showed your blog to my stepdad (Navy vet), and he said, "How come he isn't going to be a Navy chaplain???". I didn't know?! Thanks for answering! Hope you are healing up nicely by now, to the glory of the LOrd. :)

DoctorEric said...

You forgot to mention what you had previously told me, about how the Navy Chaplain Corps is rather hostile to evangelicals these days, whereas the Army tends to let chaplains be chaplains without much interference. In the Army, you'll be able to preach openly and according to your beliefs, without much fear of persecution from the theologically liberal superiors you would have faced in the Navy.

Curtis said...


I had the great fortune to spend a month with 3rd Army at Cairo West during Bright Star a few. OK, almost 2 decades ago. I served in the Joint Ops Center. Most of us ran around the airbase every morning or afternoon, when we had time. I found myself running around that airbase a lot with a COL who was the Chaplain for ARCENT. Among his many other qualities he ran me into the ground. I grew up as an army brat, spent 25 years in the navy and never met a finer man.

I'll be honest. It was not just his personal presence, it was the various tabs on his DCUs that made it clear that he was one of us. He had been there, seen the elephant and was happy to talk about the Lord, even on a 5 mile run .... I've never had much to say while on a 5 mile run. Mostly cause I couldn't