By Carl Stagner
They put their lives on the line for you and me. With courage, they served to protect the freedoms we take for granted in the United States of America. Since their days in the military, these gentlemen have committed their lives to another kind of battle—a battle for souls. Military veterans Gary Campbell and Gerald Rudd are just two of the numerous examples of those who started out in the armed forces before joining the Lord’s Army. The two thousand Church of God congregations in the United States are indebted to their service to God and country, and we honor and pray for them—not just today, but every day.
Gary Campbell served in the Air Force for eight years as a noncommissioned officer during the time of Desert Storm. Gerald Rudd committed three years of his life to the Army during the Vietnam War, and was a part of the airborne infantry.
While in the Air Force, Gary’s respect for the military only strengthened. He had held those in uniform in the highest regard before he entered the military; perhaps that was one of the most compelling reasons Gary had to enlist himself. “Growing up, I had a respect for all the sacrifices that were made for our freedoms through the military,” Gary reflects. “So I just felt deeply that I should contribute a portion of my life for service to our country, too. And when I think about the entire experience, from the intense training, to all the places around the world I’ve been fortunate to experience and enjoy, it did something for me I would not have experienced any other way.”
When you leave behind the comforts of home, life comes into its proper perspective. You begin to value the most important things. That’s how it was for Gerald during Vietnam. When asked what his time in the military taught him, he responded: “Two things: the value of life, a reinforced responsibility for the individual decisions you make.” Like many who join the military, he would never be the same. Leaving Vietnam, Gerald had become a leader.
“Leadership skills. Leadership skills came out of my experience in the military,” Gerald explains. “I was seventeen years old and became a sergeant. I was a low-level sergeant, but I had men under me. Having to deal with them and get them to work with me gave me the ability to work with others today.” Those leadership skills were just what was needed for what the Lord had in store for him post-military—35 years-and-counting of pastoral ministry.
Gary also was shaped by his military experience, giving him skills and perspective transferable from the military base to the pulpit. “It gave me a sense of dedication and stick-to-itiveness, and a deeper sense of obligation,” he explains. “It a broadened my perspective and made me much more tolerant of different perspectives and cultures. Being able to minister from more of a world view, and not just a local view, has helped me tremendously.” Gary now serves as pastor at First Church of God in Drexel, North Carolina.
Gerald, who most recently concluded twenty-one years of pastoral leadership at First Church of God in Greeneville, Tennessee, offers some insights for us this Veterans Day. He encourages us to pray for the souls of our veterans, on and off the battlefield. “I think the biggest need of both active-duty and veterans is to learn the message of the truth of Christ,” he explains. “I never had anybody tell me about Jesus in the military. Christianity just wasn’t thought about much.”
Gary adds, “Among veterans, you’re going to encounter people and needs so diverse. I think about our Church of God chaplains and the things that they are facing—issues we may never even face. The things they have to do—pray for them, too. They are truly diplomats and of the gospel.”
Learn more about our Church of God chaplains at www.jesusisthesubject.org/chaplain-ministries. Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.