By Adriane Dorr and Pamela J. Nielsen
The government was shut down in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4. Metro stations were quiet, traffic was minimal and signs announcing the shutdown were posted around the city. But it didn’t stop Navy chaplains from recognizing the promotion of one of their own.
At the Pentagon, in the hallowed Hall of Heroes, Chaplain Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Gard, Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters, was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. Gard assumed his duties as deputy chief on Sept. 23.
“Chaplain Dan Gard has personified a unique professional balance throughout his service as a Navy chaplain,” said Rear Admiral Mark L. Tidd, chief of chaplains, to those gathered. “As a chaplain, he has lived up to the requirements of his calling as a pastoral leader, both on faculty of Concordia [Theological] Seminary in Fort Wayne [Ind.], and to the sailors and Marines and family the Navy has charged him to serve.”
Gard, professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, has served around the world, most notably during the 9/11 Pentagon recovery operations in Washington, D.C., during Operation Iraqi Freedom and most recently at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Among his various military awards, Gard was also given the St. Martin of Tours Award, given to military members for exceptionally meritorious service by the former LCMS Board for Mission Services.
“Dan is a pastoral educator, dedicated to preparing future pastors — and not a few chaplains — for ministry in today’s world. He’s a professor with impressive academic credentials, as well as a leader in the life of Concordia [Theological] Seminary. … Dan and Annette, welcome aboard,” Tidd said.
After his promotion order was read and entirely gold shoulder boards were affixed to his white uniform, Gard offered his own comments, speaking first directly to Religious Program (RP) Specialists, Navy personnel “who choose and are trained to work with chaplains, trained as combatants and assigned to protect” chaplains, who cannot carry weapons. Addressing the RPs, whose work often goes unnoticed and underappreciated, Gard promised that “you have and will continue to have my unwavering support” despite the fact that it is a “challenging time for the world and the Navy.”
He also paused to speak about his shoulder boards, now completely gold-on-gold and no longer black with a gold cross standing in stark contrast. Despite the fact that the cross on his uniform is now harder to see, Gard encouraged the chaplains and staff gathered to “always remember that the cross is there,” even as “Our Lord will be there tomorrow, just as He has been there yesterday and always.”
“I covet your prayers,” he said, “for our nation, for the Navy, for Navy leaders. And I covet your prayers for myself: that I might be a faithful servant in His fervent grace and care.”
Gard will continue to teach, dividing time between his duties at the Pentagon and at the seminary (CTS). In an interview following the ceremony, he noted, “CTS has stood by me and my family when I made all these deployments and trips. I’ve never had to worry about my wife and kids because there’s community there, taking care of them. I am so grateful for the support of my colleagues individually in filling in for me. They are amazing pastors.”
His work in academia has been integral in his leadership role with the Navy, he said. “CTS is about preparing men for pastoral ministry and women for diaconal service. Chaplaincy is just one part of that. I remember getting back from a particularly challenging deployment and staff asked me, ‘How did you do that?’ I told them, ‘I learned it at CTS. They trained us to be pastors.’ CTS is the most precious place on earth.”
“I know I speak for the entire CTS community when I say how pleased and proud we are that Dr. Gard has received this promotion,” stated CTS President Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. “Dr. Gard’s service to this seminary, the church at-large and to his country has been exemplary and provides an excellent example of a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ.”
Remarking on his vocation in the unique role of Navy chaplain, Gard noted, “I’ve given the blessed Sacrament to servicemen who have just come out of combat and seen their friends killed. How many Lutheran pastors get to do that? It’s a different ministry. Where your people are, you take Christ to them. When they’re in the mud, you’re in the mud. When they’re at sea, you’re at sea. When they’re in foxholes, you’re in foxholes.”
Finally, urging all members of the LCMS to be in prayer, Gard asked that LCMS members, pastors and congregations “Pray for my sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. They’re why I’m here. They’re the most important thing. And if they pray for me, just pray that God would guide me and give me wisdom to be a faithful pastor. Because that’s what I am. All this other stuff nobody cares about. It means nothing. … What matters is what God does through His Word and Sacraments, and that I have the incredible privilege of having spent my life being His messenger, bringing His stuff to His people.”
To see more pictures of Gard’s promotion ceremony, click here.
Adriane Dorr is associate executive director for Strategic Communications for the LCMS. Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen is associate executive director for Communication Services for the LCMS.