My earliest recollections are of playing with those little green army men. I loved every minute of it. As I grew, that love and desire for the military never diminished.
At 17 years of age I secured my GED through the National Guard and realized this was what I wanted to do with my life. The feel of the uniform, the weight of responsibility, the sense of adventure and purpose — they surpassed what I had anticipated.
Then, in January 1995 I was in a car accident. My knee was broken, and I was medically discharged, all before shipping to boot camp. That was one of the darkest points in my life.
My spiritual awakening came about a year after the accident. I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed a new location from which to begin my journey, so I chose a Bible college. It was there that I sensed “the call” of God to enter ministry. I responded affirmatively but have never lost the love or desire for the military.
While working on my second master’s degree, I was in a cohort with a Marine Corps major. He mentioned that I should be a chaplain. I immediately shut that down. In my mind, if I was going to be a Soldier, I was going to be kicking down doors and taking out bad guys.
Almost 12 years later, at a men’s retreat, the special speaker was an Army chaplain who had previously served in the Special Forces. I approached him, and we discussed my lingering longing for the military. He suggested that I check out the chaplains program. Again, I shot it down, but he didn’t accept my answer. He redefined what “chaplain” means. That was October 2017.
I am now serving as an active duty chaplain at Fort Campbell, and I love what I get to do. I was so wrong about chaplains. Since I’ve been here, I have slept in the dirt, ridden in helicopters, traveled out of country, rucked a ridiculous number of miles, navigated my way through the woods in the dark, and done lots of other cool Soldier stuff.
Most importantly though, I have had the chance to love Soldiers. Our Soldiers are awesome. Training alongside of them, seeing their determination, effort and innovation emboldens my optimism for our future.
Of course, there are Soldiers who test the patience, but my kids do that — I’ve got six — and I still love them. Helping them navigate their way through difficult times, praying, encouraging and teaching as they struggle, cheering as they overcome, these are the things that make me love my life as an Army chaplain.