Pastor and Commander

Moger USS Arlington

I serve as a chaplain in the US Navy Reserve, and my military duty takes me to Norfolk, Virginia once a month where I am the deputy force chaplain for Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, comprising 78 ships and 25,000 sailors.

USS ArlingtonThis year I have gone to sea twice aboard the USS Arlington, a brand new 684-foot San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock with 385 sailors. In July I sailed out for a week while its crew tested the ship’s defensive armaments: two 30mm guns and two air-defense missile launchers. They passed with flying colors. My purpose, however, was more peaceful. While on board I preached in the ship’s chapel and led a daily Bible study. Every evening I put the sailors to bed by saying the evening prayer over the intercom just before taps at ten. Instead of just a prayer I always give a prayer and a story, usually a clean joke or parable that leads into my prayer for the evening.

In November, I embarked aboard the same warship for three days to conduct a burial at sea for five veterans, including three who served during World War II. Sailors wearing their dress blue “Cracker Jack” uniforms brought urns with the cremains to the ship’s rail and scattered the ashes in the sea, while I said the words of committal. A rifle detail fired off a 21-gun salute, then taps was played as the ship gently rocked on the ocean waves. Finally, a flag was presented in honor of the departed. The families, who were not on board for the ceremony, will each receive a letter of condolence from the ship’s captain, a CD with pictures, a chart marking the location of the burial, and a flag that was flown from the ship’s mast. The ship returned to port just before the Veterans Day weekend. By Sunday I was back in the pulpit of my church. I am proud to serve my country in uniform, especially as a chaplain. Herman Melville wrote that a “chaplain is the minister of peace serving in the host of the God of War.”

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3 Comments

Filed under ministry, personal

3 responses to “Pastor and Commander

  1. Descriptive article of your ministry, which has parallels to my own military ministry. The last sentence is moving, but I’m not sure it reflects what Melville meant when he penned it and the words following it in “Billy Budd.” We have a difficult, but highly rewarding ministry. May you do well in His service.

  2. Thank you for serving, for caring, for your presence with those in service. And, as a chaplain myself for many years, I would hope our forces would have as much access to chaplains of other faiths, and that people of many faiths and no faith will come to understand we are all in (and on) the same boat. Peace

  3. Ben Zeigler

    Thank you for your service to both our country and our service men and women. My son leaves tomorrow on the Arlington and I hope that the Chaplain on board is as caring and dedicated as you. God bless.

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