By Cheryl Magness
On Tuesday, Aug. 1, at the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Milwaukee, the Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Gard was awarded the Silver St. Martin of Tours medal by LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces (MAF). The medal, which has been awarded only 22 times in the last 80 years, is given for exceptional and longstanding service in support of MAF.
Gard, a retired rear admiral for the U.S. Navy and former president of Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., has served as a military chaplain for almost 30 years. He was a first responder at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and later served at Guantanamo Bay, ministering to both military and civilian personnel. He was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the 18th deputy chief of Navy chaplains for Reserve Matters and served in this capacity from 2013 to 2016. He has also served as a parish pastor and as professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.
In a recent interview with KFUO Radio, MAF Director Chaplain Craig Muehler called Gard MAF’s “biggest recruiter. … He is constantly telling the story of the need for chaplains. … He did not want this [honor], [but the church] wanted to say thank you. … We can’t begin to imagine how many lives he has changed by being there … to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no way to quantify that.”
Asked for his thoughts on receiving the medal, Gard said, “Our pastors go where they are called and are sent throughout our nation and world. Some serve as chaplains endorsed by our Synod.
“I was blessed to be among them and to witness their faithful ministry of Word and Sacrament in places that I, as a seminarian, never imagined I would go. Christ crucified and risen has been proclaimed, and the light of Christ has shone most brightly in the darkest places and times.
“I will wear this award to honor my brother chaplains and the families that love and pray for them. May the Lord send more pastors into the Armed Forces, and may they go ‘armed’ with Word and Sacrament, that others may hear. Soli deo gloria.”
St. Martin of Tours
St. Martin of Tours was a fourth-century Roman soldier who, according to tradition, was stationed in Gaul (France) when he saw a beggar who was freezing for lack of clothing. Martin took his cape off, cut it in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, in a dream, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cape.
Martin converted to Christianity and went on to become the bishop of Tours and a patron saint of France, while the torn coat became a relic that was carried into battle and used to swear oaths. The reliquary in which it was stored became known as the “capella” (meaning “little cape”), and the person who took care of it was the “capellanus,” terms that equate to the modern words “chapel” and “chaplain.” Muehler noted that Martin Luther was baptized on Nov. 11, which is when the church honors St. Martin of Tours, and that Luther was likely named after the saint — thus, there are “two Martins who were great defenders of the faith.”
‘We need more chaplains’
During the Aug. 1 medal ceremony, Muehler brought greetings to the convention from MAF, thanked the Synod for its support of the chaplaincy, and introduced LCMS chaplains representing each branch of the service: Army Chaplain Bobby Niemtschk, Navy/Marine Chaplain Kenneth Bomberger and Air Force Chaplain Keith Witte.
As these representatives stood at attention, MAF Assistant Director Chaplain Steven Hokana introduced the award, and Chaplain Gregory Todd, rear admiral, Chaplain Corps, and chief of Navy chaplains, read the citation. Finally, Muehler placed the medal around Gard’s neck as the convention rose to give Gard — and the chaplaincy he represents — a standing ovation.
In his remarks a few moments earlier, Muehler had appealed to the convention to continue spreading the word about military chaplains.
“Wherever the men and women who selflessly serve our nation are deployed, your chaplains go with them. … [It is] vitally important that you continue to let us know [about] all LCMS men and women who selflessly serve our nation. Please encourage them to contact us.”
Muehler concluded with a request for reinforcements: “We need more chaplains.”
LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces supports all LCMS chaplains, whether on active duty, in the reserves, in the National Guard, in the Civil Air Patrol or in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. To learn more, visit lcms.org/armedforces.
Posted Aug. 9, 2023