Some are called to serve God. Others serve their country. For more than 200 years, the Army chaplains have answered the call to serve both God and country. It is only appropriate then that those Latin words, “Pro Deo Patria,” (“For God and Country”), surround the Chaplain Corps’ regimental insignia.
The Army Chaplaincy was established July 29, 1775 by the Second Continental Congress – the oldest of the American military chaplaincies. During its 231-year history, it has also grown to be the largest diversified military chaplaincy in the world, with chaplain and chaplain assistant deployments to every continent.
The Army chaplain bears the responsibility of caring for the spiritual well-being of Soldiers and their families. The chaplaincy includes ministers, priests, imams and rabbis. All are spiritual leaders of the Army and perform religious ceremonies – from baptisms to last rites.
A congressional act in 1926 improved the status of chaplains as officers. It provided for rank, pay and allowances for chaplains through the rank of colonel, established the distinctive insignia of the Latin cross and the tablets with the star of David. It also dictated that they would be addressed as chaplains, regardless of rank - recognizing their unique role and emphasizing the calling as clergymen in uniform. A blue flag with a white Latin cross was the only equipment authorized to mark the chaplains tent.
Chaplain Ric Brown
Position: 266th QM Bn. Chaplain
Hometown: Reno, Nevada
Brown joined the Nevada National Guard at 17 to help pay for schooling as he pursued the chaplaincy. He held three MOSs prior to becoming a chaplain, including military police. Since 2002, he has been deployed twice – Kosovo and Iraq. Brown recalled a fulfilling moment he shared with a Soldier in Iraq.
“We were preparing to go help with the assault on Fallujah in November 2004. One of my scouts asked me if I was going to go with them. I said, of course, that is where the action will be. You could see the relief that I was going with them. I later had the opportunity to pray with that Soldier before we convoyed to Fallujah. The sad part is that he was killed there, but it was good to know that I had the opportunity to impact his life spiritually before he was killed.”
Chaplain Donald Kammer
Position: QMC&S Chaplain
Hometown: East St. Louis, Ill.
Kammer has been an active-duty chaplain since 1996, but also served the chaplaincy as a Reservist and National Guardsman.
Kammer enlisted in the Army in 1976 as an intercept analyst, worked in high-rise construction and as a teacher in the civilian sector, before finding his calling to the ministry.
“Slowly at first, and later I had a sense of calling to do ministry, pastorally, and that continued my sense of calling.
“What I find most rewarding is helping Soldiers, Marines and their families to walk closer to God.”
Pro Deo Et Patria - “For me, that is a term that connects to both the history of the United States, and also to the freedom of religion that we have in this country. I think of a great continuity that exists of people trying to serve God and to bless their country at the same time.”
Chaplain Robert Glazener
Position: 244th QM Bn. Chaplain
Hometown: Grand Prairie, Texas
The former artillery officer chose to serve in the Chaplain Corps because he felt a calling by God to care for Soldiers and families. This calling was confirmed the day he visited the chaplain branch during ROTC Basic Camp.
“I talked with the chaplain, and I knew then I was called to be a chaplain.”
Having pastored a church in Kentucky, Glazener feels that an Army chaplain has a larger responsibility.
“We have more access to Soldiers and a more diverse group of people to minister to than a local pastor.”
That close connection with Soldiers is what Glazener finds most rewarding in his job.
“I find it rewarding to spend time with a Soldier who believes they have no answers, and over time teach them life skills, help them develop their faith so they can succeed in life.”
Spc. Octavia Rockette
Position: Chaplain Assistant, 244th QM Bn.
Hometown: Water Valley, Miss.
Rockette enjoys the team effort of working with a Chaplain and looks forward to meetings that gather all the chaplains and their assistance together. Rockette said she enjoys doing her work and finds the experience rewarding.
“I knew this was what I was called to do when I started getting into Bible studies. Before that I was never a “Bible Study” person. I had gotten so into that, I was calling home and telling my family about what I’d learned.”
Pfc. Ashley Schulz
Position: Chaplain Assistant, HHC 266th QM Bn.
Hometown: Sebewaing, Mi.
Schulz is a chaplain’s assistant who firmly believes in the Corps’ motto, “For God and Country.” Having the opportunity to serve both has been the greatest reward for Schulz, who entered the Army as a Civil Affairs Reservist.
“I decided that I wanted to help Soldiers on a religious level instead of civilians on a basic level.”
Prior to joining the Army, Schulz was active in many volunteer projects. Her future goals include becoming a child psychologist.
Staff Sgt. Bethany Matthews
Position: Chaplain Assistant, Memorial Chapel NCOIC
Hometown: New Iberia, La.
Matthews finds serving as a chaplain’s assistant rewarding for the times she can help out Soldiers and their families.
“When stationed at Fort Bragg in 1999, I was able to help a family get funds for temporary housing when other resources were unable to help.”
Matthews has been deployed overseas in 2004 to Afghanistan, and looks forward to working in the civilian sector in the future with a career in investment properties.
Sgt. Torrance Butler
Position: Chaplain Assistant, Memorial Chapel
Hometown: Pine Bluff, Ark.
Butler felt a calling to serve in the Army as a chaplain’s assistant, and that feeling grew with experience in the military occupational specialty.
“I felt like I was chosen to come into this Corps and become closer to God.”
Butler finds the work rewarding when he can “help out fellow Soldiers in their time of need.”
Future goals for Butler include promotion to staff sergeant and a degree in criminal justice.
Chaplain Timothy Hubbs
Position: Post Catholic priest; Memorial Chapel OIC, Chaplain Training Officer
Hometown: Palmyra, New Jersey
Memorable Experience: “My service at Arlington National Cemetery was especially honorable. I performed Catholic funerals and burials, and in doing so, fulfilled one of the primary duties of a chaplain – honoring the dead.”
Chaplain Brian Curry
Position: Ministry Support Chaplain
Hometown: Shepherdsville, Ky.
The Call to Serve: “I first had a sense of calling to the chaplaincy during basic training in 1986. I saw a need for God in the life of Soldiers. I kept thinking, ‘Who will tell all the Soldiers God loves them?’ After Sept. 11, 2001, God confirmed in my heart that He was calling me to serve my country and God. I left my church a few months later.”
Chaplain James Schaefer
Position: Protestant Pastor
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Experience in Faith: “I’ve had the privilege to see thousands of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors and Coalition members come to personally accept God’s love, and plan for their lives in combat … seeing them choose to witness their faith in baptism, share their faith during combat and some (my chaplain assistant) even die with the very words of faith in Christ upon their lips before their death.”
Sgt. Melanie Swienski
Position: Chaplain’s Assistant
Hometown: Hudson, N.H.
Why she serves: “One thing that set’s 56Ms apart from everyone else is our mission; to enhance the morale of the unit. That includes coordinating events and socializing with Soldiers, and really getting to know them. To me that’s far more interesting than any other job offered and seems to be the most fulfilling. The moment I’ve gained a Soldier’s trust – when they are comfortable talking to me on a personal level – it’s at that point I feel I’ve accomplished something.”
Chaplain Joshua Pair
Position: 49th QM Group Chaplain
Hometown: Gaston, N.C.
Chaplain Pair enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1974, serving two years as a supply specialist. Pair joined the National Guard in 1976 while attending the Richmond Virginia Seminary.
Pair served as a Reserve Chaplain from 1993-98, serving at Fort Pickett, Martinville and Dublin, among Virginia locations.
His first active-duty station as chaplain was in Fort Carson, Colo., where he was the battalion chaplain for the 1-12th Infantry Battalion.
He also served as the 23rd Area Support Group chaplain in Korea.
Pair arrived to Fort Lee in June as the 49th QM Group chaplain and has found the experience so far to be fulfilling.
“Most of all, I enjoy meeting Soldiers and their families from all walks of life. I chose to serve in the Chaplain Corps to provide ministry and to help Soldiers to succeed professionally and spiritually. This is the part of the job I’ve found challenging and rewarding every place I’ve served and look forward to serving this mission at Fort Lee.”
Chaplain Jimmie Gregory
Position: 240th QM Bn. Chaplain
Hometown: Elyria, Ohio
Making a difference in the lives of men and women who serve is Chaplain Gregory’s passion and reward.
Having served as a noncommissioned officer for several years, he knew firsthand what it was like to lead Soldiers and influence their lives.
The call to serve in the Chaplain Corps was an extension of this need to make a difference.
“It was a calling to serve in the military as a chaplain with a passion and heart for the welfare of Soldiers and family members. To provide the best form of ministry to them with the hope that lives will be changed for the glory of God.”
His call to serve has also influenced his family.
“My wife is a great supporter in all that I do and without her prayers and support I would not be here today. She shares in the love and care for our Soldiers, her prayers are endless for those who have deployed and those who are preparing to deploy.”
Chaplain Daniel Oh
Position: ALMC Chaplain
Hometown: Osan, Korea/San Jose, Calif
As an enlisted Soldier, Chaplain Oh attended chapel services and participated in chaplain-sponsored battalion retreats.
He was reminded of this during his time in seminary, and a visit by chaplain recruiters invoked memories of his battalion chaplain.
“The Lord used this event in order for me to serve as an Army chaplain.”
Formerly a Presbyterian minister, Oh sees similarities between being an Army chaplain and a civilian minister.
“Both preach, teach and provide necessary ministries for the human soul. However, Army chaplains are experts in serving “SOULdiers” in the military context.”
While deployed in Kuwait, Oh had a unique opportunity to conduct worship services for U.S. inmates at a confinement facility.
“It’s always amazing to see how God’s grace and Christ’s love penetrates into Soldiers’ hearts in their worst circumstances.”
Chaplain Dave Essells
Position: Reserve Chaplain
Hometown: North Hills, Calif.
A former helicopter pilot for the 3rd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry in Dian, Vietnam, Chaplain Essells chose to serve in the Chaplain Corps in 1988.
“Serving as a chaplain allows me to minister and bring God and His word to Soldiers and their families. I have the opportunity to help Soldiers grow in their respective faiths. They bring differing perspectives into my life and I enjoy talking with them.”
Essells deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for the 54th and 111th Mortuary Affairs and 108th QM Companies.
“I have valued the service of our mortuary affairs Soldiers. I see the care and honor with which they care for deceased Soldiers’ personal effects - they take pride and professional care in their job. They honor those who have given their lives for our country and the Iraqi people. Ministering to them and giving spiritual care for them in that tough task is very rewarding and quite an honor for me, personally.”
Future goals for Essells include continuing to serve either by extension on active duty or returning to his California Reserve unit and to his teaching job at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.
Chaplain Dean Bonura
Position: Deputy Installation Chaplain
Hometown: Massapequa, N.Y.
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
“The chaplaincy provides the unique opportunity to minister to the religious and spiritual needs of a diverse population, as well as a variety of rewarding and challenging experiences. It is an adventure because things are always new.”
Chaplain Bonura knows adventure - having been deployed five times, to include Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Armored Division. He also served six years in the Army Reserve as a chaplain assistant. In California, he served as a missions’ pastor.
“Generally, ministry in the chaplaincy is more focused on counseling and smaller congregations, but church can be held almost anywhere at almost anytime.”
Chaplain Jeffory Hill
Position: 262nd QM Bn. Chaplain
Hometown: Culpeper, Va.
Having spent the longest residency in his life in Virginia, Chaplain Hill now considers it home. Son to a retired State Department employee, Hill was born in Singapore, but lived in Indonesia, Norway and England.
Hill felt his calling to serve in the Chaplain Corps after speaking with an Army Chaplain recruiter at a Virginia State Evangelism Conference.
“My conversations with Fort Lee chaplains solidified my decision. I felt God was calling me to the Chaplain Corps - he helped me realize that my personal character was very well-suited for the discipline, structure and traditions of the U.S. Army. The pluralism and diversity of the Army was also very attractive to me.”
Sgt. Kevin Sharper
Position: 240th QM Bn. Chaplain Assistant
Hometown: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Originally enlisted as a veterinarian assistant, Sgt. Sharper had a change of heart that led him to the position of chaplain assistant.
“I asked them to change it, and without hesitation, they did. It was as though everything was planned already - as though God had taken care of it all.”
Sharper has found the experience to be rewarding, and has learned a lot from the people he works with.
“It’s like I’m being groomed and mentored for what I am going to be doing for God later on. I love helping Soldiers and being an example of faith.”
Sharper’s future goals include contracting work with MWR at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, finishing his degree in social work and law, and ultimately becoming a lawyer and a minster.
Sgt. 1st Class James Johnson
Position: Installation Chaplain’s Office NCOIC
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
While stationed at Fort Sam Houston with the 5th Recruiting Brigade, Sgt. 1st Class Johnson found how significant a role the chaplains and their assistants can play in Soldiers’ lives.
“With eight battalions covering 10 states, the recruiters were spread far and wide. Working six days a week, the recruiter’s mission could be brutal. The chaplain and I, understanding the hard life of a recruiter and the strain on their families, we made it a point to provide ministry to those Soldiers that would be meaningful. Providing quality marriage and single retreats, along with communication and stress briefings was key. Also, there were Soldiers coming in from deployments. The Soldiers and families were very appreciative of the spiritual truths deposited into their lives.”
Staff Sgt. John Hart
Position: 23rd QM Bde. UMT NCOIC
Hometown: Ipswich, Ma.
Reaching out to Soldiers and family members is what makes Staff Sgt. Hart’s work satisfying. And the variety of ways he can help makes the job interesting.
“To have an impact on Soldiers’ lives in this capacity and to see positive changes occur in front of your eyes makes this job very rewarding.”
While deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division in 1991 during the first Gulf War, Hart saw how important chaplains and their assistants were in the field.
“As soon as we got back, I re-enlisted and changed my MOS from infantryman to a chaplain assistant.”
Hart has found the Chaplain motto of “For God and Country” significant in his life because “to be in a job where you can serve both is an awesome thing.”