Tell readers about yourself and how you discovered Palm Coast/Flagler.

In June of 1977, I was ordained into the holy ministry and married to Connie nee Cramer of Toledo, Ohio. Connie and I have enjoyed 46 years of wedded love and faithfulness. We are blessed with three married daughters and six grandchildren. In addition to serving three different Lutheran congregations throughout my career, I also served as a commissioned Naval officer and Navy Chaplain for 25 years (1980-2005) retiring as a Navy Captain. Following my last tour of duty, I was selected to serve as the endorsing agent for all military chaplains of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, (2004-2014). In 2014, Connie and I retired to Palm Coast and have enjoyed every day of retirement since in the Grand Haven community.

What was your profession and how did it inspire your first book? 

From a very early age, the call to be a minister of the Gospel has never left me despite the many speedbumps, hurdles and reversals that life places in your way. Following my official retirement in 2014 and restless to pursue graduate studies, I matriculated into the PhD program at Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, to do research on a burning topic of interest to combat veterans; namely, moral injury after combat. I completed my studies after five years and graduated May, 2020 with the PhD degree. My first book entitled: Nailed! is a distillation of my PhD thesis on moral injury and how the church today can create a welcoming niche and reach out to veterans suffering issues of conscience after combat.

All wounds of war are not visible. Violence in combat assaults the soul, confuses the ethics and can be perceived as an intrusive violation of previously held moral norms. No two consciences are the same. How vets deal with issues of conscience can heal the soul or devastate the warrior’s mental health over time like a slow corrosive poison. Despite all the superb assistance the VA has given our vets through rehab and counseling, the suicide rate remains unchanged at 17+ vets a day totaling 65,000 veteran suicides since 2010, averaging about 6,000 suicides per year which is 1.5 times the civilian rate in America.

What can be done? Healing needs to occur in the conscience. The Scriptures delineate the mission of God to the military and define the crucial difference between self-forgiveness and God’s forgiveness. My book explains this difference and points the combat veteran to the cross of Christ as God’s exclusive lens to heal the troubled conscience of any warrior. Not all veterans who see combat return with PTSD/Moral Injury. The VA’s best estimate is that 20-30% of all warriors will have issues of either or both.

The church has been dealing with issues of conscience for over 2,000 years. The war that rages now in the soul and conscience of so many of America’s combat veterans does not end when the vet returns to civilian life. This invisible wound can rage on for the rest of his/her life. God forbid that the only relief the veteran can find against the voices screaming in his/her head is suicide. Nailed! can bring peace, ultimate peace to the conscience of any troubled veteran through the cross of Christ.

I come from a strong military family. Neil, my older brother by four years who has now gone on to his eternal reward was troubled all his life by issues of PTSD, black clouds of depression and moral injury. We had many talks over the years. He is the inspiration and the impetus for this labor of love. God bless all our nation’s veterans.

You are preparing to release a second book. What is it about and why did you decide to write it? What do you hope readers take away from it? 

My second book is entitled: One Ordinary Life—Extraordinary Grace. As a Navy chaplain, my second tour of duty was aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71 from 1986-1988. TR was a brand new warship, commissioned October 25, 1986, and I am a proud plank owner.

Imagine piloting a F-14 Tomcat plummeting at 150 mph toward a rendezvous with a moving aircraft carrier in order to land your plane safely on 600 feet of flight deck. Flight deck carrier operations—launch, recovery, wave-off, bolter, trapped—is the lens I offer to view, reframe and seize new meaning from the unfolding events of your ordinary life viewed from the celestial flight deck of God’s extraordinary grace. It is a view that will lead to greater trust in God, lasting peace of mind and the discovery of the wonderful script that God has already written for you. To understand and appreciate God’s extraordinary grace will redirect your life and cure grumpiness! In today’s world, that alone would cover the price of admission.

The theme of One Ordinary Life is the perpetual, prominent and prevailing grace of God over the life of every baptized Christian. Such grace reveals the linkage between all the good and bad events of one’s life that often goes unnoticed with no lessons learned from life’s great mysteries. The end result is despondency, regret and remorse for choices previously made that seemingly can’t be undone.

I encourage the reader to take a journey through their own life by using vignettes from my life to illustrate how the grace of God operates in our lives just like carrier landings at sea. God’s script for your ordinary life is powerful and extraordinary. It heals the soul and frees the mind. Seek and you will find.

As a chaplain, what are the greatest challenges we face as a society and what advice would you give to readers? 

Irrelevancy in the ministry was my greatest fear as a military chaplain. To be seen as relevant the chaplain must discover and respond to the needs and fears of the personnel he has been called to serve. The same holds true for the civilian pastor.

American culture today has largely discarded God as irrelevant to daily needs. God, and by extension, the church, might be relevant for my deathbed but the rest of my life is up to me, my intelligence and my choices. I write with a passion because I seek to reframe such thoughts to a better conclusion in order to find meaning in his/her God-given life and to discover that the will of God is good, wonderfully good for the soul and the soul’s salvation. Life is not long; it is terribly short and a shameful tragedy to waste away in trivialities. Our Creator is not a throwaway God. He is not far from any one of us. He desires all to come to Him and such is my prayer also.