Church and the Military Brat

Luke Air Force Base Chapel
Luke Air Force Base Chapel

I have a tough question for you. When and where do you first remember attending church services?

I told you the question was hard. No, I am not asking you to recall what you’ve been told by your mother or grandma about church attendance, but what you can remember. In my case, the year is 1960. I had just turned six years old in November 1959. In February, my family moved from Glendale, Arizona into base housing on Luke Air Force Base near Glendale.

Once on Luke AFB, I was quickly recruited and joined Cub Scouts. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Cub Scouts? I thought you were asking about a church.”

I’ll tie it all together, I promise. The first time I remember going to church was attending the Luke AFB chapel service on a Sunday where they recognized the Cub Scouts. We got to wear our uniforms. We sat together. The Chaplain recognized our Cub Scout Pack at church, introducing each of us and everyone politely clapped.

At the chapel, I filled out a card where they got my name, telephone number, address, and religious affiliation. For the religious affiliation, I wrote Baptist. I did that because my mother told me to.

A few days later someone called from the Luke AFB Chaplain office. They assigned me to a Sunday school class. Sunday school met at the Luke Elementary School located near my house. The Base Chapel was the other direction. It was through the main gate and at Luke AFB.

I attended Sunday School the next Sunday. My Sunday school class was almost everyone in my elementary school class. Some gave me a hard time for not attending until now.

When asked why I hadn’t been before I said I had never heard of Sunday school. When they laughed at me, I bristled up and asked why they hadn’t invited me. That shut them up.

In August 1963, I started attending Trinity Baptist Church in Seguin, Texas with my mother, brother and Uncle Lee, Aunt Leona, and their three girls. My father was in Vietnam from August 1963 to August 1964. I was never asked to join the Sunday school class or church since my family was military. When told I didn’t have have to fill out a form since my family would be moving next summer because we weren’t permanent to town. I was heartbroken. They made me feel second-class.

A year later the family was in El Paso, Texas with dad stationed at Biggs Air Force Base. There father was the Sunday school director for the Protestant Chapel. He worked with Chaplains Henry and Gurtiss. Major Henry was a Presbyterian while LTC. Gurtiss was a Lutheran. We didn’t have a Baptist chaplain.

The summer of 1965 I attended my first vacation Bible school. My mother was the director. I learned the books of the Bible in order. We used plaster of paris molds to make Bible verse plaques. We would paint the plaque and give the to our parents who would keep them until the day they died. We also made plaster of paris imprints of our hands. Vacation Bible school was fun. Again, it was the same kids in my class as at school. The best part may have been the snow cones we had for refreshments.

I would attend other Sunday schools on other military bases. It wasn’t until my dad retired from the USAF that we joined a civilian church and Sunday school. But, that is another story for another time.

Picture Source: It is in the Public Domain. Works of the United States Government are not protected by copyright and are thus in the public domain.  http://www.luke.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130702-054.jpg


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

Author: Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a full-time writer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a career military father and stay at home mother. He lived in six states and attended eight different schools before graduating high school. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with minors in English and Military Science from The University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Arts and Master of Religious Education degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the Doctor of Education degree. Before writing full-time, he worked as a US Army officer for 10-years, religious educator for 18-years, and as an IT software application engineer for over 20-years. He is a widower. He lives in North Texas with his cat Lacey.