Chaplain’s Corner for the Navy League: “Why I Love the Sea Services of our Nation”

A Merchant Marine poster

Note: The following is an article written for the Navy League of Chattanooga.

Some of you know me as the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. Being a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a tremendous honor and being pastor of this great congregation in our beautiful city is a unearned blessing. Some of you know that I also serve as a Chaplain (Major) in the US Army Reserves. And that is a great ministry and humbling experience that gives to me far more than I ever give to it. But I want to tell you about another great honor: of being in the Navy League of Chattanooga and being your Navy League chaplain. And I will tell you why.

First of all, I was once a young, orphaned teenager from a poverty stricken area of Southeastern Louisiana, and needing to find out how I would get an education. I took a test to try to qualify for the Navy Security Group to be a “spy!” What I really wanted was an education. And the United States Navy sent me to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. I got my first two years worth of collegiate education there. I went on to be a Top Secret linguist in the Navy. After the Navy I served for sixteen years in the chemical industry, becoming a manager in Kansas City. Later, when God called me to preach the Gospel of Christ, I went off to seminary, earning a Masters degree, then after that, a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Wales. I tell you this not to flash my educational credentials in front of you who have equal or more. But I tell you this to let you know: that everything good that came to me in my career and in my education started with the Navy. And so I feel a sense of gratitude to the Navy.

Secondly, my father, Ellis Milton, who died when I was only six years of age, was a Merchant Marine ship’s captain who commanded a troop transport during World War Two. I can’t remember a great deal of my father, but I can never forget the sight of him in his dress uniform. I grew up, every day, seeing the photograph that my wife now displays in our home, a picture of my dad when he was a young Naval officer. His brother, my uncle, was also in the Navy. He was killed during World War Two. Another man later came into my life and was a father figure to me. His name was Harry Faris from Kansas. He was a retired Captain in the Naval Reserve as well as a retired federal attorney. He was also an elder in the church I planted in Overland Park, Kansas. He taught me so much. I looked up to him in so many ways. He used to tell me of how the Navy gave him so many opportunities he enjoyed in life. So as a result of Naval service among the men that counted so much in my life, and their love for the sea services, my life has been enriched. I feel like I want to be associated with other men, and women, who also have served in the sea services and who carry of the great tradition of honor. And I got to tell you: when I left a business career to go to seminary and become an ordained minister, I wanted to serve as a Chaplain in the Naval Reserves. At the time they didn’t need any Presbyterians so that is how I ended up in the Army Reserves! But because of what the Navy did for me as a young man, and what the Navy and Merchant Marine meant to my family, I count it a privilege to be your chaplain.

What is you story? I hope I get to hear it from you sometime. Remember: no matter your denominational affiliation, I hope you know that I am always here if you need me. After all, I think we have something in common.

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
This entry was posted in Chaplains, Chattanooga, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, Military, Navy, Navy League, Navy Reserves, Presbyterian, Sea Services, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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