Kentucky National Guard says farewell to longtime chaplain
Story and photo by Sgt. Sandra Fariss, 206th Engineer Battalion Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative
OWENSBORO, Ky. — After two decades of military service, multiple deployments and touching countless souls, Chaplain (Maj.) James C. Messer is hanging up his uniform to tend his flock in the civilian world.
Messer received the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal presented by State Chaplain (Col.) David Graetz, during a retirement farewell ceremony held in Owensboro last January. His most recent assignment was with 206th Engineer Battalion.
“When I think of Chaplain James Messer, the words that come to mind are dedicated, competent, hard-working,” said Graetz. “Chaplain Messer could be counted on to step up to the plate and provide what was needed for the individual soldier, the Kentucky Army National Guard and the United States Army.”
Messer deployed two times to Bosnia and once to Iraq during his military career. He was also an expert trainer in the Kentucky Guard’s Strong Bonds, Preparation and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP). His wife, Janet, also helped teach at the marriage retreats.
In addition, Messer is also a civilian counselor and sees many military personnel and their families in his practice.
“He will truly be missed for his hard-work, dedication and expertise,” said Graetz.
“In 23 years of service I have met many Soldiers and their families that have taught me many things about what it means to be a Chaplain,” said Messer. “When Soldiers and their families face difficult problems they need the support of someone who will listen and not take sides, and tell them the truth.
“As a Chaplain I had that opportunity time after time. I was amazed at the results I saw in families when they let God lead them instead of society.”
Messer said that during deployments it was especially difficult for soldiers to keep clear lines of communication open.
“Soldiers were ready to listen to God when times were tough and they couldn’t just go home and fix the problem,” he said. “It is the difficult times that help them to become strong.”
Messer is a pastor at Morningside Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in Evansville, Ind. He and his wife run a counseling service in their hometown of Bowling Green. But the Kentucky National Guard will always close to his heart.
“I have met so many Soldiers that I will never forget their willingness to give of themselves in service to their country,” he said. “I will not forget them and I hope they will not forget me, but most of all that they will trust in what they learned of God in their struggles.”