Chaplain sees opportunity for ministry in Army

Story by Pfc. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

"American freedom … is the freedom to do the right thing," said Chap. (Capt.) David W. Peters, chaplain for the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 64th Corps Support Group, 13th Corps Support Command. "Do the right thing freely, not freedom from the rules …"

Peters knew he wanted to minister even as he enlisted in the Marine Corps and left for basic training the day after graduating from high school. Somehow, though, he began to lose interest in the chaplaincy the longer he was in the Marines. This is in part due to the fact that, as a reservist, he was not greatly exposed to chaplains and their roles in military life, he said.

Still, Peters pressed on toward his goal of becoming a minister, attending college and seminary as he fulfilled his six-year obligation to the Corps. His time as a Marine allowed him to test his abilities and prove himself - not to others, but in his own mind. Ministry, he explained, is often seen as less than demanding - less than a "real" job. He wanted to prove, to himself, he could face difficulty and succeed.

He did.

Along the way, he met his wife, Georgia. Georgia had no desire to be a pastor's wife. In fact, she really did not want to be one. So, when she married the young Peters, there were many adjustments to be made.

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 complicated those adjustments even more. Peters decided to become a military chaplain, seeing many opportunities for ministry among the thousands of Soldiers who would soon see combat.

"I saw a need for chaplains to minister to Soldiers," Peters said.

So, he offered his services to the Army.

Having just finished seminary, Peters was required to complete two years of ministry in the civilian sector before receiving his commission as a chaplain. After completing the required time as a youth pastor, the Pennsylvania native was accepted into the chaplaincy program at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where he completed the three-month-long chaplains' equivalent of military occupational skills training.

Throughout this entire process, Georgia stayed by Peters' side.

"My wife is aware that God has called me to do this and it requires a lot of her as well," Peters explained. "She sees herself as part of the team. [But] she's not married to the church, the Army … She's my wife," he continued, placing emphasis on my. "I give her the freedom to do what she wants."

"Your calling in life is something you desperately want to do and the world desperately needs," the chaplain continued, explaining his and his wife's perspective on the chaplaincy. "The Army needs pastors who love Soldiers and love God. That's my desire. It all kind of lines up. I know God wants me to be here."

"It comes down to the respect I have for Soldiers. To facilitate their worship. It's a way to show Christian love," Peters added.

He went on to say he can not push his own beliefs on Soldiers, but he prefers to show his beliefs through his actions. He believes the life of Christ should be an example for his own life and that Christianity is best displayed in an atmosphere of religious freedom.

"Christ was not trying to build the biggest church in the world. He was trying to do the will of his Father."

"Five or six Soldiers gathered around a humvee is better than [some large churches]," Peters continued. "People who show up for worship in the military are hungry."

These Soldiers are the reason Peters and his wife can handle military life - and Peters' upcoming deployment.

"Problems in the Army are always people, relationships … Sergeants and Soldiers, Soldiers and family … I try to help Soldiers solve relationship problems. It's nice to see people reconcile - nice to have Soldiers who can focus on being a Soldier. It's nice to pastor."

Even with their outlook, however, the chaplain and his wife - and their two young sons - must adjust to the difficulties of deployment.

"My marriage is just as strained as everybody else's with the deployment. You just find people you can trust and talk to. For me, some are chaplains and some are family back home."

Even with the difficulties, however, he says his family helps keep him grounded and reminds him he is still a Soldier, still a husband, still a father and still a man.

"My family is a test of who I really am. That I'm a chaplain means nothing [to them]. I'm Dave, I'm Dad."


news photo
Chap. (Capt.) David W. Peters, chaplain for the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 64th Corps Support Group, 13th Corps Support Command at The Blue Bonnet Ball