Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

In Uniform at General Assembly

It was an amazing and enlightening experience for me at this General Assembly, in that I spent much of my time in uniform as a Chaplain Candidate. I was in uniform so much, some people might think I wear it often. In fact, I purchased the class B shirts just for General Assembly… I rarely get the uniform out when I am not training, and then it is mostly the daily work combat uniforms, known as ACU’s.

I still have to get the little book out to remember where all my ribbons and pins go.

But as I stood at our booth at GA, I was treated to a cross-section of our faith. The time in the booth went by so fast, because I was constantly speaking with people either interested in the resources we were providing for congregations, or just interested in what a UU was doing in military uniform. I had a few individuals assume that I was just some recruiter the Army had sent, being so desperate for soldiers they were even looking for them at UU events. These people were quite shocked that I was actually a UU seminarian, and that I was not there to recruit anyone.

There were a few people who would not look at me in my uniform, but this happened less than I expected. It happened less than the few times I have been on the University of Chicago campus in my uniform. There were a few people who stopped just to tell me that they were pacifists, and that they opposed the war. For the most part, they followed this with something about supporting the troops, but they wanted to respond to what was a perceived challenge of their beliefs by the uniform. A few were quite surprised to know that, out of uniform, I am working with the CSAI core team on Peacemaking.

Mostly though, those who stopped had a different reason entirely. They stopped to tell me about their military service, or the service of their spouse, or in the case of one earnest gentleman, the service of every person in his extended family who had ever served, going all the way back to the American Revolution. A few stopped me in the hallways to tell me that they wish they had a UU chaplain when they were in the military. There were a few stories from Vietnam vets that were heart wrenching and touching, about how hard it had been to stay in our churches. There were stories of spouses and what it was like to live with a veteran. There were stories of children serving in the military, and parents who were worried for them. There were stories of lost friends, of experiences in the military that led someone to UU faith, of beliefs lost and principles found.

It was almost as if these stories had no other outlet, no other way that these earnest people could share these stories within this faith… until they saw a UU in uniform. The other Chaplain Candidates and Chaplains had similar experiences.

While I thank all of these wonderful people for sharing their stories, it makes me wish that these stories could be shared in all of our churches, not just at GA when there are finally some Military Chaplains around.

Yours in Faith,


2 Thoughts on “In Uniform at General Assembly

  1. It’s not at all uncommon to meet UUs with a son or daughter in the service.

  2. I have been wondering how this experience was going to go ever since you told us you were going to GA in uniform! I’m heartened to hear that the group experienced what we at UCE have been experiencing since you’ve been with us–an opening of the box of silence. You provide a place for people to talk about their experiences in the military world, once that is so very different from the nonmilitary one. Your openness helps in many areas, but this one is very needed. thanks

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