May 11, 2012
Dear Beloved Veterans of Foreign Wars of Florida,
This has been a wonderful year for me as your State Chaplain. My on the job training has been an adventure. It has been an honor to serve. Trying to bridge the gap between being a Navy Chaplain to a VFW chaplain has its share of challenges and growing pains.
I am hoping to pursue a PhD in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland this fall. This is the premier program in the world for pastoral counseling. This degree will open doors for me to be better apt to assist our combat veterans and their families. Please pray for me.
My Post 9/11 GI Bill will help with half the costs. I am grateful. However, it is interesting to note that a veteran reservist who served in combat for 6 to 7 months is only entitled to 50% education benefits while a veteran who never leaves the states for a three year tour is entitled to 100% education benefits and MHA, and can transfer this benefit to their dependents. It seems we need to give “bonus” days for those who risk their lives on the front line.
With that said, I am not going to run for State Chaplain for the upcoming year. My vision of where the role of the State Chaplain needs to go will require more time than I am able to give. I hope you understand.
There has been much criticism and praise of the way I approach prayers and ritual. I am merely a servant of God and do not rely on what others think. I pray and lead with my inner compass as to what I believe is faithful to God and Country. Not all positions are applauded. When Abraham Lincoln insisted in the Emancipation Proclamation, he was viciously attacked. However, he was spot on.
The VFW is a great organization. However, it needs to be pruned in order to bear more fruit. Pruning is never easy, but it is necessary. Amendments in our Constitution are in place because our country has needed pruning from time to time. The next chaplain needs to be “a chaplain at heart.” The position of chaplain should never be a steppingstone to a leadership position. My two recent predecessors, Sal and Doug were outstanding and spirit filled men and great mentors for me. They have great ideas and visions for the Spiritual and Moral direction of the VFW here in Florida. They too indicated some of their frustrations in this position.
If there is someone in your post who has a background as a chaplain with real training in the role of a chaplain, please encourage them to consider putting out into deeper waters and possibly taking on a role as a “servant chaplain”. In the Navy, the Chaplain Corps has a motto I abide by:
Called to Serve!
Have a great week and keep the faith. See you at the State Conference.
Please pray for our Nation, our Family, our President, our VFW, and especially for our men and women who serve in foreign wars.
Love, joy, peace,
Acta non Verba,
Padre Ron Camarda, LCDR, CHC, USNR-Ret
Department Chaplain of Florida
Priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine
Tear in the Desert, Silver Award in Spirituality Military Writers Society of America
** Supported by the U.S. Army, Tear in the Desert, a 30 minute TV special will be showing on EWTN Catholic Station at 5:30 pm on Memorial Day, May 28th. It was filmed on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin with men and women preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan.