I grew up in the South, born in Atlanta and raised in Virginia. Decided at age 10 that I wanted to be a Marine, and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1988, ultimately serving for nearly 6 years as an armorer with an artillery battery.
Attended Wheaton College, earning a degree in – of all things – graphic design. Which helps out more than you might think when it comes to designing t-shirts and coins or painting murals on walls and T-barriers.
Having completed OCS, I was commissioned as an active duty Marine Corps artillery officer in 1994 and completed two West Pacific deployments before leaving the Corps in the fall of 1999. I stayed in the Reserves and eventually assumed command of a reserve artillery battery in 2001.
After 9/11, I returned to active duty and served in several staff positions at both Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic (Norfolk, VA) and Marine Corps Forces, Europe (Stuttgart, GE). While in Germany, I deployed to Senegal as part of a Mobile Training Team and to the Republic of Georgia as the XO of a task force training the Georgian 23d Battalion for duty in Iraq.
But as proud as I was to be a Marine, there was something else going on. Having failed to “augment” as a Regular Officer back in 1999, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to serve a full career as an active duty Marine. As my wife and I considered future career options back in the spring of 2004, I felt the Lord calling me to ministry. After praying about it, my wife and I both felt strongly that the Lord was leading me to serve as a military chaplain. In pursuit of this goal, I resigned my commission in the Marines in May 2006 (just after being selected for Major) and entered the Army’s chaplain candidate program.
Why the Army, you say? I’m glad you asked. You see, after 18 years in the Corps, I wasn’t sure that my motivation to serve as a Navy chaplain wasn’t somehow tied to my own desire to maintain my affiliation with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. I also wondered if – were I to be assigned to a Marine battalion – I wouldn’t have a hard time not reverting back to being a Marine instead of a chaplain. So, in order to avoid those potential conflicts, I took a hard left and went first into the Army Reserve and later into the National Guard, taking a demotion to Captain as well, since Majors are not eligible for initial entry on active duty as chaplains.
I graduated from Bethel Seminary San Diego and was ordained as a baptist minister in June 2010 . About this time, I began to reconsider the Navy chaplaincy. Having spent several years in a different branch and also having developed my own pastoral identity, I felt that I could serve with the Marines again without my previous fears being realized. However, when I applied for the Navy a few months later, I was turned down for active duty – probably because they require their chaplains to have two years of post-graduate ministry experience. After nearly a year of job hunting and rejection (not many churches want to hire a recent seminary grad), I found an opening with a Rhode Island National Guard aviation battalion which was preparing to deploy to Kuwait. I interviewed, was accepted, and here I am at glorious Camp Buehring, Kuwait. I’m told that I’m once again eligible to be promoted to Major on the next DA board. Go figure.
Lord willing, once I return from this deployment I’ll apply again to be a Navy chaplain. Kinda hard to argue that you don’t meet the qualifications if you have a combat deployment as a chaplain under your belt, right?
Oh, and if I do make Major this year? Yeah, I’ll have to give that up again in order to “Go Navy.” But y’know, I’m ok with that. After all, I didn’t choose this profession for the rank that was in it, nor for the shiny things they tend to fling at your chest every now and then. For me, it’s all about serving – and to be quite honest, I can probably do that more effectively as an O-3 than in any other grade. ‘Cuz I’ve found that folks tend to laugh at Lieutenants and be a bit leery of Majors, but somehow Captains aren’t as threatening – especially when they’re also wearing a cross.