BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Joseph Cappar, August 28, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Joseph Cappar, August 28, 2007
Date:
August 28, 2007
Description:
Interview with Pastor Joseph C. Cappar.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Cappar, Joseph C. Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  8/28/2007 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes

 

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. Today is the 28th of August in the year 2007 and we're at the New River Baptist Association in Jacksonville, North Carolina. This is part of the Military Chaplain's Oral History series and I'm interviewing today, Pastor Joseph C. Cappar. Good morning sir, how are you?

Cappar: I am well. I thank you.

Zarbock: Please to hear that. Chaplain, what individual, series of individuals or event or series of events led you into the ministry?

Cappar: I became a Christian when I was about nine years of age, eight or nine. That came out of an experience of getting caught stealing a magazine out of a local drug store. And I came to realize just how bad that was and what my state of affairs were at the time. And so felt the need to make some changes in my young life. I became a--

Zarbock: Where were you living sir?

Cappar: West Palm Beach, Florida was my home, born and raised there. And true kind of had a friend and we got into some things that we shouldn't have been into and ended up with that experience. I had been taken to Sunday school by my family and by neighbors and knew right from wrong. And that experience kind of brought all that to a head and became a Christian out of that experience. And pretty much from then on in my young life, had for some reason this idea that I really needed to be concerned about what it was that God wanted me to do. And around the age of 10, thought that I wanted to be a criminologist and got all these books that I couldn't read the words and so forth. But I had that interest. And then around age 12, my older brother was in college preparing for the ministry and so I had that influence. I was still very active in church and came to feel like the Lord was calling me into full time Christian ministry at about the age of 12. My older brother dropped out of college later and decided not to go into the ministry. But I continued to feel like that's what the Lord wanted me to do. And so really from the age of 12 on, had this sense that God wanted me in the ministry and I had always thought of that as the pastoral ministry, being a pastor at a local church. And that pretty much continued through the years. And the different pastors that I had in my church, were probably the greatest influences on my life in those early years.

Zarbock: Well, so you got out of high school and what happened?

Cappar: Actually while I was in high school and had a pastor who was a strong influence in my life and I remembered on his desk, a picture of him in a flight suit. And that was probably, in fact that went all the way back to when I was just pre-teen. That pastor in my church and that picture is my earliest recollection of anything that had to do with military ministry. And that continued to be an influence. I thought he had been a military chaplain and actually came to realize that he had preached a series of services or sermons at services on a military base and he had a friend who had him dress in this flight suit and took this picture beside a jet aircraft. Continued to pursue this interest in the ministry while I was in high school. It just so happened that Palm Beach Atlantic College was just beginning as a college. It's now a university in West Palm Beach, Florida about the time I was graduating from high school. And so, was able just to continue in a Christian college right there in my home town and did that. Met the young lady who was to become my wife during my first year of college. We married after my first year of college, kind of a young, a young marriage if you will. And then over the next few years, finishing up college, it was kind of her and I together in terms of what the Lord wanted us to do.

Zarbock: But Chaplain, how did you earn your bread and butter while you were in college?

Cappar: My wife worked part time, although she got pregnant after a year or so and was ill with that pregnancy and wasn't able to work. I took whatever part time jobs that I could get with-- my father was a city employee and I made application and got some part time jobs with the city and doing different kinds of things. And just did whatever I needed to do to make it through.

Zarbock: Well you finished college and you're a husband and now you're a father.

Cappar: Right, right. We had three years of college to finish as husband and wife and this child came along. And during those years of course, we were very much searching what it was the Lord wanted us to do. My wife was very certain she wanted to be my wife and I was certain I wanted her to be my wife. But she was very uncomfortable with the idea of being the wife of a pastor, of a minister in the local church. So we of course needed to work that out since I was very sure this is what God was calling me to do. And quite honestly, my calling to do ministry was greater than whatever emotional ties I might have had to something or someone else. She understood that although I think like most women, that was not the easiest thing to understand or to accept. So it was our desire to seek together what it was the Lord wanted us to do. And this thing as a military chaplaincy really caught on with the two of us. Of course we did a lot of consulting and praying and talking with other folks about these things and really felt-- both of us came to feel very comfortable that the Lord was calling us into the military ministry. She said "Yeah, I think I could handle this thing of being a chaplain's wife." I think it had to do with expectations. Maybe the expectations that she felt would be put upon her as the wife of a local pastor were different than those it would be as the wife of a military chaplain. And she is correct in that perception. So we felt pretty comfortable about that. My father had been in World War II. My uncles had been in World War II, one of them a career Marine during the Korean conflict. And then he had retired and had moved back to our area when I was young. And so there were a lot of military influences. I remember my father's picture in his sailor uniform sat on my mother's dresser, all of my years growing up. And that military influence I think, was there all through those years. And then the idea of ministering in the military really became a calling. And we felt certain that the Lord was calling us as a married ministerial couple, into the military chaplaincy. So from about my third year of college on, that became the goal. And I recall actually going all the way back into my high school years, when I considered going into the Navy, by going to the Naval Academy, that the reason I decided against that was, I had felt that my call to the ministry was greater than the call to the military. So that when we decided that the Lord's calling us into the military ministry, it was kind of a convergence of all those things that had been there through the years.

Zarbock: Where did you go to seminary?

Cappar: I went to Louisville, Kentucky, to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While we were there, I was able to pastor a little church which is quite often, the possibilities anyway, for seminary students and as Baptist, where I could be ordained before I finished seminary. I was able to pastor this little church. It was about 30 miles from the seminary and we lived on the field of the church. So it gave us a lot of practical experience which is priceless. Those dear saints there in that little church in Shelby County, Kentucky who just put up with me, with us and with you know, all of our ideas and bringing things fresh from the seminary class you know, and all of that. I think back on the preaching that I did and how ridiculous it might have sounded at times. But it was just a great experience to get that practical experience. And since we had from the middle of our college years, planned on going into the military as soon as I could, I got commissioned in one of the chaplaincy programs. And those days in the Navy, we call it the Theological Student Program. So after just six months in seminary, I was able to receive a commission in this Theological Student Program, and be a commissioned reserve officer in preparation for the chaplaincy.

Zarbock: What year was that Chaplain?

Cappar: That was 1974 when I had that commission. And we finished that college in '73 and went on to seminary in Louisville and in '74 was commissioned into the Theological Student Program.

Zarbock: And you graduated from seminary?

Cappar: 1976 and wanted of course to go on active duty, that was the goal. And the Southern Baptist denomination at that time, we called it the Home Mission Board, said that they did not have an opening for me at that time to go on active duty. And I tell you, that was heartbreaking. There were a lot of tears that my wife and I shared over that because we had felt all the preparation that we had made up to that point and that we were ready for this. And then for the whole mission board to say, we don't have an opening for you.

Zarbock: And that was it. I mean it wasn't like within six months we may or a year? Was there any encouragement--

Cappar: Well actually there was an indication that maybe a year from now, you know, maybe about a year from now--

Zarbock: But in the meantime, we'll call, you don't call us.

Cappar: Right, right, pretty much that way. Of course as military chaplain you have to have an endorsement from a denomination as well as your commission from the military service.

Zarbock: Chaplain excuse me, but for the purpose of this historical record, what do you mean by an endorsement?

Cappar: The Department of Defense requires military chaplains to have a connection with a faith group. And that faith group must say that this individual is in good standing, if you will, with their faith group and that they in fact represent that faith group in the military.

Zarbock: Virtually it's a quality control isn't it?

Cappar: It is. And the military services expect the denominations or faith groups within the United States to exercise that quality control.

Zarbock: Yeah.

Cappar: So that it's not something that the military has to do because of the separation of church and state thing. So they allow people from faith group organizations in the United States to represent those faith groups in the military. And the faith groups are supposed to exercise the quality control.

Zarbock: So with that endorsement really it's a certification that you represent the knowledge, the values, the principles, of our denomination. We are not trying to get rid of some looser that-

Cappar: Right.

Zarbock: -Doesn't fit in to us when we're trying to, you know-

Cappar: That's absolutely correct

Zarbock: Shove him off.

Cappar: -And you have to maintain that endorsement and then different faith groups have different requirements for maintaining the endorsement. But if the endorsement is withdrawn by the faith group, then the military has no option but to put you out.

Zarbock: Wow. How is this maintained?

Cappar: Different faith groups have different requirements in the Southern Baptist denomination. There are quarterly reports that need to be submitted, which give different details of information that the denomination is looking for. And the denomination sends a representative from the Home Mission Board, which is now called the North American Mission Board to visit with their chaplains, you know, different times in the year, so that they can kind of have an eyeball face to face contact with that chaplain and the chaplain's spouse.

Zarbock: And that, this evalu-- annual or even more often than that evaluation, goes on your entire career?

Cappar: Correct. Right, because you have to maintain that endorsement throughout the entire time. And different denominations will have different standards and when they feel like the chaplain is outside of those standards, then they have different ways of dealing with it. And my denomination of course would try to talk with us and you know, see what's going on and so forth. And even if the standards are violated, it's not going to be an automatic withdrawal. You know, they try to work with you. But obviously if you're not going to represent that denomination or that faith group, faithfully, then so far as they're concerned, you know, you cannot represent them.

Zarbock: I suppose a loophole could be to go to another denomination.

Cappar: Yes sir and quite often-- well I don't want to say that it happens that frequently, but when an endorsement is pulled, most often that chaplain will look for another faith group to represent them. And that's not terribly difficult because you know, in most cases it's not a serious offense. I mean there have those. But it's not a serious offense where the individual's in trouble with the Navy, but they're in trouble with their faith group. So if an individual has some issue with their faith group, there's probably another faith group, for whom that's not an issue.

Zarbock: Yeah, you couldn't be more welcome over here.

Cappar: Yeah, so they can faithfully represent the other faith group but not the one that they've come from. So that does happen.

Zarbock: Well thank you. Okay so, so you were really severely disappointed.

Cappar: We were, we were at that point where everything we'd been working for really for six years and we'd had another child along the way and we were in a little church that couldn't pay us you know, to survive and relied on family quite often and other folks who cared about us through the years to help us. It was a great disappointment. And so we looked at the options and one was to go to another church. But I knew that as soon as I had opportunity to go to active duty I would do that and it wouldn't be fair to that church. We could stay where we were. We had a good working and friendly relationship with the church where we were. But they just couldn't afford us.

Zarbock: So it was a tiny church.

Cappar: It was a small church. I can't--

Zarbock: And a tiny salary to go with the tiny church.

Cappar: Yes, yes. In those days, I think it was about $75 a week or something you know. We're still talking the mid '70s. So one option was to stay in seminary and do an advanced degree. And in those days, the Navy Chaplain Corps, really seemed to be anti too much advanced education. And it seemed to be that the reason why was because advanced education meant that you got a specialty and then you wanted to maintain that specialty. And so you would say to the Navy Chaplain Corps, well no I can't take those orders to that place you want me to go, because I can't do what I'm specialized in doing. And it seemed to be that there was a conflict then between advanced education beyond your basic seminary degree. That has changed through the years. Now they encourage you to get all the education you want you know, however you can get it. But in those days that seemed to be what it was. A Doctor of Ministry which was just coming into vogue in those years, was a professional degree which wouldn't necessarily specialize you like a PhD might in some particular field. So that seemed to be a good option. And since I was a Baptist and in the Baptist seminary, I applied for that Doctor of Ministry program in the Baptist seminary. And that happen to be 1976 and that was the year that they stopped students from going directly from the masters work into the Doctor of Ministry work. You can go into PhD work, because that was academic. But the professional degree, they would not allow you to transition immediately. The requirement was that you would have two full years of practical experience and then you could come back to get this more practical professional degree. So of course that was another major disappointment and I had friends who were seminary students in the Doctor of Ministry degree program at the Presbyterian seminary, which was, essentially just down the road if you will, from the Baptist seminary. They had the same rule. But they were willing to bend their rule to allow me into the program. And of course in God's grace and wisdom, that was the very, very best thing that could have happened to me, because being in the Presbyterian seminary, I was in doctoral seminars with clergy of many different faith groups. In the Baptist seminary, they had a few who were not Baptist. But the vast majority of those were Baptist. What better preparation for the military chaplaincy where you have to work with all these other faith groups and denominations than to be in a whole year or more of seminary preparation with these different folks. So I had exposure to a lot of different clergy and their theologies and their social aspects that I never would have had, had I stayed in the Baptist seminary. So in God's wisdom of course, this was all just what he wanted to happen. So it was great. So I spent a year essentially, doing all the academic work that was required. Then the Home Mission Board opened up the opportunity or I should say the Navy opened up the opportunity to the Home Mission Board to have a chaplain representing Southern Baptist to come in and they allowed us to do that. So in 1977, we came on active duty.

Zarbock: I'm going to ask the obvious. Had you and your wife traveled extensively in the United States?

Cappar: The answer really, clearly is no. My wife had been out of the state of Florida. We were both born and raised there. Several times with her family, before we married. Before I married at age 18, just two weeks shy of 19, I had been out of the state twice in my entire life.

Zarbock: Well hello. Welcome to the Navy.

Cappar: Right. Right. Now my wife did have opportunity. She's a couple of years older than I am and so after she had graduated from high school, went to college for a year and then traveled for a year with a musical organization called Up With People. And she traveled in Europe for a few months as well as around the United States quite a lot. So she did have that experience but I certainly did not. And we went from West Palm Beach to Louisville and then Shelbyville, Kentucky. Been there all those years, three, four years while in seminary and then shipped off to Norfolk, Virginia for my first tour of duty, knowing that we'd get there in July and then just three months later, would leave for seven months on my first deployment. So that was quite a transition.

Zarbock: Okay so you got to Norfolk. You're now putting on the uniform. Who taught you how to put on the uniform, how to salute and do other military things?

Cappar: Well actually of course, since I had been in that Theological Student Program as a reserve officer, for the three years prior to coming on active duty, I had learned all those things.

Zarbock: Okay.

Cappar: And actually had had opportunity to be in an active duty training environment in a couple of places even while I was, while I was living in Kentucky, was able to do those things. So that experience did well prepare me to be an active duty naval officer.

Zarbock: Did you live on base at Norfolk there or was it off base?

Cappar: When we first moved there, we moved into an apartment off base. As I mentioned, we moved there in July then I left in September. We're in this apartment complex because there was a fairly lengthy waiting list to get into government quarters. And we had a couple of dogs and the two children. We wanted an upstairs apartment so that you know, we wouldn't have ground floor access to my family. We thought it was safer. But the people downstairs just complained vehemently about the dogs. You know, they would scratch their fleas and bump on the floor or something. The people'd get upset about that. And my poor wife would have to bundle up the children because they were still quite young at that time-- bundle up the children. My daughter has a seizure disorder. She had major convulsions since she was just eight months old and then continued to have seizures. So all the years in seminary was trying to figure all that out. So you could not leave her alone and even though she was about five years old at the time, she couldn't be left alone. So my wife would have to bundle up these children and take the dogs out for a walk at you know, ten or 11 o'clock at night, get them back in and do all that. And then of course I left in September. It was in Norfolk, Virginia so the weather is getting colder. It was just a major hassle for her. So I was deployed. She was stuck in that kind of a situation. She went to the apartment manager and said, isn't there some way I can get out of this lease and he said absolutely not. So he made the statement to her, you know, short of someone dying or a fire, you know, you're not getting out of this lease. Well, it just so happened that just a couple of weeks before that, my wife had decided to take out some insurance on you know, like fire insurance and so forth, because we'd never thought about that. She said well this might be a good idea. So she's in the shower one evening and my son who was then two years old, comes in to her and said, "I'm cooking the bricks blocks-" You know, these little plastic blocks that kids used to play with, "On the stove." And she said well that's fine, you know, because they had a little play kitchen in their bedroom for the kids to play with. Well she didn't realize until she got out of the shower and opened the door that he really was cooking the bricks blocks on the gas range. And there was just smoke and these little plastic things you know, floating all over the place from this fire. Well she got out of the lease.

Zarbock: The Lord does move in mysterious ways.

Cappar: But of course that led to a lawsuit.

Zarbock: Sure.

Cappar: Because then the manager thought she had set the fire-

Zarbock: Certainly.

Cappar: -Which of course was not the case at all. So here I am deployed in the Mediterranean for another six months, getting all of these legal things because I'm being sued by this apartment manager and of course my name's on the lease. So that continued until I got back and then we got it all settled. In fact the judge ruled pretty much against the apartment manager and the apartment complex, because he saw everything that had taken place and realized what the reality and the truth of it was. And so he couldn't dismiss it but in essence that's what he did.

Zarbock: Did your wife, two dogs and two children remain in this--

Cappar: No. In fact I wanted to mention particularly how grateful we are for the support of fellow chaplains. Because chaplains deploy with their troops, wherever they are and that was sea duty for me and a lot of time at sea, you have to rely on people to take care of your families. And the Chaplain Corps does that. The chaplains, who were there while I was deployed, pitched in. Of course they gave her all the support they could, tried to help her get out of the lease and everything prior to that. But then once she had the fire, they helped her to locate another place she could move to and helped to move her. They came you know, got everything packed up for her and moved her because the government wouldn't move as a government expense. They had already done that just three, four months ago. So they got her all moved. Got her settled in her new house, another place that we were renting but it was a house with a yard and it was just perfect under the circumstances. So and they were just great support. And those first months of course, our pay was all messed up, situations were a mess, but the chaplains were always there to help her. She had to go in every pay day and ask for money from the dispersing clerk just to pay bills, because the pay was all messed up. Senior Chaplain always had an apple on his desk and my son who was two at the time, just always coveted I guess, that apple. So every time he went in and that Senior Chaplain knew that Sean was going to get his apple. And he just loved it. And they had you know, great relationship, great support, can't say enough about those guys. It was terrific.

Zarbock: By the way, were you on a ship? What sort of ship were you--

Cappar: Yes, the first tour of duty was in an organization that was really a pool of chaplains and they assigned us to deploying units. So I was assigned to this group and worked with ships on the waterfront and then as the squadron of ships came together, most of what we called small boys, destroyers, guided missile destroyers, frigates and there was one guided missile cruiser that was the largest of the ships in that squadron of ships. So they put together a composite squadron for deployment purposes and then they would take a chaplain out of this pool and assign them to that squadron. So I had seven ships deployed for seven months in the Mediterranean and the plan was for me to move every two weeks so that I could be on all seven ships twice during the seven month deployment. So obviously there wasn't a whole lot of in-depth ministry on any one of those ships. But part of what I was to do was to train lay leaders and make sure that they were resourced appropriately and then get to the ships as often as I could. When we were clustered in a port or whatever, I could hold services on different ships and then do the counseling that was needed--

Zarbock: What sort of problems did the sailors bring? By the way, in this squadron were there women as well as men-

Cappar: No.

Zarbock: -On board?

Cappar: No. We didn't-- in fact we didn't have women on ships in those years.

Zarbock: Okay.

Cappar: That came just a little bit later.

Zarbock: Well what sort of problems would the sailors bring to you?

Cappar: Typical problems sailors always have are young marriages and the difficulties that they're facing from being away from family. And the challenges financially, sometimes young sailors will marry an older woman that already has children. And so they have a lot of family kinds of things that they are just really not prepared to handle, separation anxiety issues. In fact, my Doctor of Ministry project, my ministry project like a dissertation was on separation anxiety because it was such a phenomenon and I wanted to study it in-depth. And those kinds of issues of course in the mid '70s, drugs were a problem. So we had folks who were struggling with drug usage and would go into port and you know, they'd get it wherever they could. We had some racial issues that we had to deal with still in the mid to late '70s, wasn't quite as bad then as it had been earlier. But those were some issues. And then just the typical kinds of things with guys adjusting to being in the Navy, aboard a ship, you know, deployed so many thousands of miles away from family and home.

Zarbock: Are those some like struggling months for you, for your wife?

Cappar: Well I was in this kind of difficult-- of course I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. This is what God called me to do. Finally I was able to do it. I was enjoying myself. I was having fun if you will and getting paid, although the pay was messed up, getting paid to do it aboard ship. You know, I had grown up in Palm Beach County in Florida around the ocean and the water and loved boating and fishing and you know, all of those things. So here I was aboard these ships and the small boys were small boys. I mean they don't call tin cans-- destroyers tin cans for nothing, because they do bob around like tin cans in the water. But it was great fun for me. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Zarbock: What was your rank chaplain?

Cappar: Came in as a Lieutenant junior grade and then one year later became a Lieutenant. So I was still a Lieutenant junior grade at that time, just one step above an ensign 02 if you will. And moved around all of those ships and of course I had a doctor that quite often would move with me but not every time that I moved. And he was a young doctor, you know, assigned to the squadron kind of like I was as a chaplain. So we had some professional collegiality there and I then would get to see other chaplains as we moved from ship to ship, different ports, getting to see those chaplains and so forth. But it was just, it was just exciting ministry for me to be able to share with sailors about my Lord, about Jesus. I should back up to my original calling, I really felt was to serve the Marine Corps. I really had a very strong calling to serve Marines.

Zarbock: Where did that come from?

Cappar: The only thing I could think was the influence, well two things really, my brother when he had dropped out of college, went into the Marine Corps Reserves. So there was that influence. And then that uncle I mentioned who had been a career Marine. And he'd had some alcohol issues and some personal family issues. And I think there was something of these folks need Jesus. These folks need chaplains. They need somebody to minister to them, to help them with the things that they struggle through and in their lives being in the military. So I think those influences probably led me to the Marine Corps. And there was I think, the idea, the Marine Corps being so rough and tough and having the standards of excellence, being what it was and I was probably more-- well I know I was much more of a perfectionist than I should have been in my own personal life. So I think this idea of excellence and perfection and the idea that the Marine Corps focused on the mental and the physical, the idea of being able to bring the spiritual aspect to that, to say, you guys think you're so perfect and squared away but unless you have the spiritual element taken care of, you're nowhere near perfection. So I think there was a special challenge if you will, to bring the spiritual into the physical and the mental aspects of the military perfectionism. And then when my first assignment was not the Marines but to sailors, of course that was fine. My father had been a sailor. I had two cousins who were sailors and so you know, that was fine. And I soon began to realize sailors need Jesus too. And so that was fine with me. And being aboard ship and all of that was just an exciting opportunity to do that which I'd felt I really wanted to be doing. Of course I was so grateful that the chaplains were taking of my wife. I knew that she was cared for. I knew that her needs were being met back there. So I really didn't have to worry about that. I mean I was concerned about it and so forth. But it wasn't something I had to worry about.

Zarbock: Previous interviews, the chaplains when they were deployed, during the years that you're referring to and earlier, told me that the most frequently used method of communication was the U.S. mail and that came in episodically. This pre dated the email and the cell phones and that type of thing.

Cappar: Right, right.

Zarbock: So what was the situation getting-- here you're being sued, your wife is in flames and all of these things. How did you communicate?

Cappar: Well very much of course, in emergency situations you still have the American Red Cross.

Zarbock: Oh yeah.

Cappar: Which would send radio messages so we could get them. So I remember very clearly being waked up at 2 o'clock in the morning, reading this message from the Red Cross that there had been a fire in my home. And this had happened you know a couple of days earlier by the time that this radio message could get to us. But indicated that you know, everybody was okay and that the chaplains were taking care of the situation back there. So that was one way we could get emergency messages and we knew, of course as a chaplain I had the responsibility quite often of passing that information. So I was familiar with the system and knew how that worked and how to work it. And of course there was always emergency leave. But it didn't look like I really needed to do that. They were being taken care of and so forth. And so I didn't worry about that. But yes, normally it would have been the U.S. mail and you got that whenever you got it. And so it was very important always to number your letters so that you would know in what sequence they were coming, because you could get them all out of sequence or a whole bunch of them at one time. So we always made sure we numbered those. My wife has always not liked to talk on the telephone. She's just not-- personal communications, individual, she can sit down and talk to you person to person. We didn't like to spend the money that it would cost to talk commercially. If I was in port and tried to call her--

Zarbock: And it was expensive.

Cappar: Very expensive and of course it was going to a pay phone and paying those overseas rates, feeding that machine. And she didn't like to do that anyway. Of course there was what we call Audovon [ph?] in those days, which is now DSN, television--telephone network. And we were able sometimes, to get a patch through and that's a worldwide military telephone network. So sometimes you can get a patch and talk that way. But she really didn't like to communicate much that way. One interesting and funny kind of thing is what we call the MARS network, which is a military affiliate radio service. And that was ham radio operators around the world who were part of the MARS organization or system. And they would link a local telephone system through overseas radio networks to wherever you might be. And if your ship had a MARS operator, somebody who was licensed to operate this, then you could be at sea somewhere and get this MARS link through this system to your wife or whoever back home in the States. The only problem with that was, is that you had to use radio system language. So you'd say "Hello this is me. over." and she would say "Hi good to hear your voice and this is your loving wife, over." You know, so if she didn't like regular telephones, she really didn't like that. And then of course you had the world, anybody who could tune into that radio frequency could hear what you were saying. So you didn't dare say anything terribly personal, certainly nothing intimate. But that didn't work out too well. So she said "Don't ever call me on MARS again." And then it was like, "Don't ever call me like that unless we really have time or if I have a need." You know, so but we relied on the communications that we had and they worked out fine.

Zarbock: So you're back on shore after a seven month deployment.

Cappar: Yes, yeah and of course it's very early in the career. That was supposed to be a two and a half year assignment and in those days, the guided missile, nuclear powered cruisers, what we call CGMs, did not have chaplains assigned to them. They received their ministry through this pool of chaplain network that we were talking about. And the Navy Chaplain Corps was able to obtain billets or positions for chaplains to serve now full time as a ship's chaplain on the CGMs. And I was one of the first five chaplains to be assigned to a nuclear powered cruiser out of this pool of chaplains. So I actually had kind of a split tour from being in this pool of chaplains now to being a permanently assigned chaplain, as one chaplain on one ship. And that was a great experience. It was a great preparation to do this other thing and then now to be a single ship's chaplain. And of course there was only one billet because there were only 500 crew members. So to be a single chaplain responsible for ministering on that one ship was a great next step. And it was a great opportunity for a ministry. Unfortunately what that meant was, is because that particular ship I was assigned to within just a few months, less -- about six months was going to deploy for another six months and then a quick turnaround on our deployment. That of course, didn't make my wife real happy. But it did matter to me a whole lot because that's what I wanted to do, that's what God had called me to do and that's what I was doing and it was great ministry and certainly deploying was an exciting thing to do for this boy who hadn't been too many places in his life, now suddenly being all these places in the Mediterranean world was great. And to be able to visit the places where Christ had been or where the apostle Paul had been, things I'd been reading about. And in our first tour I went to Israel, twice. So the opportunities were just magnificent for me as a young chaplain. So it was difficult for the family but my wife was definitely what was made of that was necessary to be a chaplain's wife. And it was definitely a part of our calling to be chaplain family and to do whatever was required. And she was just great in doing that. Even with this child now, she and our daughter, five, six years old, seven years old with the seizures and she had multiple seizures everyday and my wife just had to cope with that and deal with it. Our son coming along three years younger than our daughter, very active but perfectly normal child. So I got reassigned to this other ship that was then deployed. The nuclear power world is unique. They have very, very high standards and because of those standards and it's good, because you don't want things happening on a nuclear powered ship that shouldn't happen. Because of that, my Commanding Officer said that there's no such thing as confidentiality in the Navy. And that whatever I knew, he would know, because he could not afford to have anything happening on his ship that he did not know about. And therefore when I reported to him once every week and talked with him about my counseling cases, that I was not telling him enough, that I had to tell him everything. And I said well, I don't think that's what I was taught in chaplain school. He said well I don't care what you were taught in chaplain school. I said well, "The manual that we go by, we all the Chaplain's Manual is an off nav instruction." And he said "Well we all know that that was signed by chaplains. It was written for chaplains by chaplains and a chaplain signed off on it and so it doesn't count." So he told me this while we were at sea and insisted that I would do this or he would take legal action against me. And I said, "Aye, aye, but I need to check this out." So at the next port we made, I made phone calls back to my Senior Chaplains. And this is a good point to talk about the great mentoring that's available in the military services, chaplain services. These Senior Chaplains who had years and years of experience, where readily available for me to talk to, to get advice from, to get guidance and then of course my own denomination who had these years of experience of dealing with us chaplains. So I talked to both and the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Commission said, you know, our representative there said, we'll support you in any way we can. We don't agree with there CO. We do agree with you and you know, we don't want to get in the mix until we have to but, but we're here and we'll support you. So getting moral support from them. The chaplains said, "No, your CO is wrong. This is some advice as to how you can handle it in the meantime. And you know, we'd look into this when you get back." So here I was, really the first full time chaplain assigned to this ship, really on the verge maybe of ruining this whole thing of okay, what's it like to have a chaplain on a nuclear powered cruiser. And not really sure about how to proceed on this but knowing that I was right and feeling threatened by this CO who's a full bird Captain in the Navy. So it was a little challenge to begin with, as now a Lieutenant in the Navy --

Zarbock: And unlike the parish ministry, you do have your efficiency report?

Cappar: Oh yes.

Zarbock: And the Captain would have in measuring your qualities in that efficiency report.

Cappar: Absolutely.

Zarbock: And some of those efficiency reports variables are pretty slippery.

Cappar: They can very much so be--

Zarbock: And be--

Cappar: -And then the CO gets to write what he wants as the narrative. And you're absolutely right. Those reports are critical to promotion.

Zarbock: So not only are you the first kid on the block--

Cappar: Mm hm.

Zarbock: But your career might end or at least be stalled significantly.

Cappar: That's right.

Zarbock: And your regulations-- he does not see the regulations that govern you as the regulations that govern him.

Cappar: Right.

Zarbock: Oh, that's a nice situation to be in.

Cappar: Right and in those days, well it's still a requirement today. They just do it a little differently. Essentially your first three years on active duty, were very critical in terms of whether you would stay on active duty or not. So there would be an evaluation at the end of those three years as to whether you would be extended or not. So that was a pretty critical time--

Zarbock: How old were you at this time by the way?

Cappar: I would have been about 26.

Zarbock: I'm going to say the obvious. You're carrying a very heavy burden.

Cappar: It was quite a challenge, quite a challenge.

Zarbock: How was it resolved?

Cappar: We got back of course from that little cruise. That was a training cruise we were on. It wasn't the full six months. So we were only out for another few weeks. We got back. I talked with my Senior Chaplains. The Senior Chaplain of the fleet actually came aboard. He had briefed the Admiral of the fleet this is the second fleet, about the situation. The Fleet Admiral told him to go down to the ship and get it resolved. He came aboard the ship and spent an hour or so, a hour and a half maybe, with the Commanding Officer and then left the ship. And nobody said anything to me. And so after some period of time, day or whatever, I decided to call the fleet chaplain's office to try to find out what had taken place. And essentially the answer I got was that I was on my own to resolve this. And I wasn't being given much additional advice except these mentor chaplains that I had, assured me that I was right, that the regulations applied and that I was on the right track. So I really wasn't quite sure what to make of that. I didn't feel entirely abandoned, but I was not quite sure what was happening. However, the next time I went in to brief the Commanding Officer, I briefed him the same way I'd always briefed him. And on this occasion, he asked for no additional information. So I presume he was set straight on how it had to be and that I would give him as much information as I possibly could and that he wouldn't ask for any more. And the fitness reports came out okay.

Zarbock: Of course that fitness report is a two-edged sword. Somebody's filling out a fitness report on the Captain too.

Cappar: Mm hm, right.

Zarbock: And if it's been called to the attention of the Admiral, base Admiral who, a fleet ad--this Captain, is modifying the rules, interpreting them rather, in a rather unusual way. That could look bad on the Captain's-

Cappar: Right, right and he did not make Admiral, which was you know, from a personal, individual stand point, you know, a sad thing. You'd like for everybody to get promoted. But given his leadership style, I'm glad that he was not promoted to the rank where he could influence even more people along those same lines. So I don't mean to be vengeful anyway, but from the standpoint of just his leadership style, I'm glad that he wasn't able to have his influence even broader than what it was by being the CO of a ship.

Zarbock: As a personal note here, I am absolutely astonished at the stress that you were placed under.

Cappar: It was very interesting times. But even as I was going through that, I felt like this is not a bad experience for a Lieutenant. If I can make it through this, then I'm even better prepared if you will, for something in the future.

Zarbock: So you defined it as a learning experience.

Cappar: It was very much a learning experience--

Zarbock: Painful as it was.

Cappar: Yeah, very, very much so. But helped to build some more military officer character in me and chaplain character, gave me some things that I could used in the future perhaps, to help others.

Zarbock: Sure. Sure.

Cappar: -And did through the years do that.

Zarbock: Sure. Yeah.

Cappar: And jumping ahead a few years just to make this one point, ended up in a similar situation with a Marine Corps Lieutenant colonel who was my CO in a battalion when I was assigned to Marines not exactly the same, but very, very similar. And as he had me standing at attention in front of his desk, being dressed down, about this particular situation--

Zarbock: What was the situation?

Cappar: Well the situation was that an officer in his battalion had come to me as the chaplain, to talk about some things that were of concern to him in the unit, some of the ways that people were being treated and some of the things that were happening. And he was seeking guidance, chaplain's counsel on this, these things. The CO had gotten wind of that, that this officer had come to see me. And the CO told me that he was the chaplain for officers and that I could be the chaplain for enlisted people and that I was not to talk to any officers, not to counsel with them. I mean I could talk with them obviously but not to be their chaplain. And that anything that any of his officers told me, you know, he needed to know about. His style of leadership was the good old boy style of leadership where everybody was his boys.

Zarbock: Yeah.

Cappar: And there was such a lack of trust you know, no officer could know anything that the CO didn't know. And so they were always you know, talking about these things to each other. And I recall talking to one very Senior Warrant Officer, about a situation involving some assignments of people. He was the Personnel Officer. And he basically said, "I can't talk to you about that," because he knew that the CO would not want him to talk to me about that. And within 48 hours, probably within 24 hours of my having that conversation with that Warrant Officer, the CO had me in his office talking to me about that conversation I had with the Warrent Officer. So the WO, warrant officer had gone directly to the CO and said, "This is what the chaplain's asking about." And it was for me, a morale issue and a personnel issue which was going to affect the people of his command and he needed to know those kind of things, but he wouldn't allow me. And so when he called me in to talk to me about this conversation I'd had with the officer, I had also followed that up with a couple of questions to another officer. And he asked me why it was I was asking about this. And I said, "Well sir, I was just trying to do a little investigating to get the details, so that if there was a problem, I could bring it to you." And he said "I conduct all investigations in this command."--

Zarbock: And you're standing at attention?

Cappar: Oh absolutely. "You will not conduct any investigations in this command. You will not ask any questions. If you want to know anything, you come to me. If you hear anything that you have a question about, you come to me and you ask me about it and I'll tell you or I'll conduct the investigation." which was not at all-- this time I was a Lieutenant commander and had had, not only that sea tour, but also a short tour under my belt, was a Lieutenant commander and you know, felt like I knew what it meant to be a chaplain and had to operate within the parameters. But this was my first Marine Corps tour and this was my first Marine Corps Commanding Officer.

Zarbock: Were you at Lejeune or where?

Cappar: I was in Okinawa at that time.

Zarbock: Oh.

Cappar: And he basically said, that's the way I would do it or I could go find another command. He would give it to another chaplain. So here's my first Marine Corps tour. I wanted to be a chaplain with the Marines. It's the thing that I'd really gone all the way back to my calling into the military ministry to do. And here I was being threatened with failure, my first assignment with the Marines. Talked to my Senior Chaplain again, who said, "No, I was right." But back to this other thing. As I was standing at attention, being dressed down by the CO, what went through my mind was, you know, I've been in this position before and it was with a full blown Navy Captain, nuclear-powered trained officer. And here I am before a Lieutenant colonel mustang Marine Corps officer. I think I can handle this [chuckles]. [Tape Change]

Zarbock: Tape Number 2, 28 August 2007, excuse me, Chaplain Joe Cappar, Tape 2.

Cappar: We were talking about that assignment with Marines, and interestingly enough after my first assignment with ships, thinking that the reason really I'd come into the Navy Chaplain Corps was to serve with Marines -- since they don't have their own chaplains assigned, the Navy chaplains to serve Marines -- that's really what I wanted to do. And I had gotten orders while I was in that first tour that I would serve with the Marines and that I would go to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to do that. I was aboard ship at the time I got those orders and it actually wasn't orders in hand but the word that that was what my orders were going to be. And looking at that situation I really felt it was untenable to take those orders; reason being was even though it was still Marines and that's what I wanted to do, I had had those two back-to-back sea deployments, and that sea tour that I was on had been extended because I had taken that assignment as the ship's chaplain. And my daughter, with her seizure disorder, and she was also mentally retarded, had to be in a very special situation. She needed a special education school, she needed a pediatric neurologist to be available to her, and the only thing I had ever told my detailer was, "I'll take orders anywhere you want me to go, but I need to have special education available and I need to have a pediatric neurologist available." When I found out that I was going to get orders to Marines in Camp Lejeune, I contacted Senior Chaplains there and they told me that I would- if I lived on base my child would be in the Department of Defense schools and that special education was probably pretty good. But in the county, at the time in the county schools, special education was not very good at all. The Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune did not have a pediatric neurologist and the nearest one would be at Wilmington, which would be about an hour away. And at the time my daughter was being hospitalized for about 10 days at a time every six months. And so this had already happened a couple of times during this sea tour, and then I was going to go to Marines and that I would be assigned to 2nd Marine Division, and that I could expect, within three months of arriving there, to have to deploy for six months. So it would be the same sort of pattern I'd had over the past three years, and that meant my wife would have to again have my daughter in the hospital, but on this occasion she would have to now travel an hour. And I still had my son who was getting older and now getting into kindergarten, elementary school. And I just thought that was an untenable situation. I wrote a letter to the detailer, which must have had some angry tone to it, saying essentially the only thing I'd ever asked is that I'd be sent to a place where I have special education and pediatric neurology available, and now you're sending me someplace where neither one is available, and this is just an untenable situation. And I did say, however, that I had done a little research on my own and had found that in Orlando, Florida there was a chaplain who wanted to come to the ship that I was on, and that perhaps we could do a PCS, a permanent change of station swap. Of course the Navy's always had a swap where you could take somebody else's job and extend to whatever period of time they wanted, but that wasn't really what I was looking for. I was looking for a PCS. But that it was going to be good for both of us to do that.

So I sent this letter, got the CO's endorsement. He was glad for me to extend on the ship for a few months so that I could make this arrangement work. This was the same CO I had this trouble with, by the way, but by then we had worked things out and he said it'd be fine for me to extent there. So I felt the letter had gone through the administrative chain the way it was supposed to and off to the Chief of Chaplain's Office, to the detailer; didn't hear anything back in quite some period of time. It got on to nearly three months and was getting more critical in terms of needing orders pretty soon. So I got in touch again with all the administrative system involved and found out that in fact the letter had never left the ship. So I revived it and got it sent finally to the Chief of Chaplain's Office.

In the meantime the detailers had changed. The detailer who had been there knew who I was but didn't know me very well. The new detailer was the detailer- was the chaplain who had been the Basic Course officer, the Senior Chaplain in the Basic Course when I went through the Basic Chaplain School course, and he knew me and knew my wife and our family situation. He finally got the letter and he wrote me a personal note, a personal note. "Dear Joe: If you want to stay in the Navy Chaplain Corps don't ever do this again." He said, "Your letter sounds angry. You got it signed by your Commanding Officer, which makes it official and essentially officially puts your detailer on report, and this is not the way to approach this." Well, of course, if the other chaplain, who was the detailer, had received that letter when he was supposed to receive it, I would've been put out of the Chaplain Corps because I was still in that first three-year period of time where when you came up on the end of three years essentially it was the detailer's decision and his advice to the Chief of Chaplains that would keep you on Active Duty or not. Well now he was not there. This chaplain who knew me personally and knew my family situation, and he had been by Basic Course officer, sends me this personal note. And he says, "However, understanding your situation we will change your orders and we will send you to Orlando, and the chaplain who's there will relieve you as the ship's chaplain."

I mean, that's the grace of God. I'm nearly in tears because if it were not for the grace of God I would not have continued. If that letter had gone off when it was supposed to it just would not have worked. Here God had put in place this chaplain who knew us and our family situation, who was sensitive to God's calling, in our lives, and because of him making that decision we were able to make that transition and stay in the Navy Chaplain Corps. So we went from there to Orlando, which of course was just three hours from home, for both of us, and gave us a great deal of family support; and the, of course, special education and pediatric neurology were both available in the Orlando area. And it was just a great, great opportunity for us to be able to now, having come from sea duty, to go to shore duty, and to continue. There was still what was called an Indefinite Extension that had to be approved some months ahead of us. But at least, for the time being, we were where we knew the Lord wanted us to be. So it was great. We went to that assignment and I was assigned to Family Housing area, which was just great. After having come from working most with sailors being deployed a lot, now to have a chapel and be the Protestant chaplain in the chapel, and have families to minister to and all of that -- and family ministry was very much my interest. I had a strong emphasis in family counseling in my Doctor of Ministry work. So that was perfect for all of that. The Senior Chaplain said, "You know, if everything works out you'll be here in this chapel for your whole assignment because this chapel has had a lot of transition and they need somebody here for some period of time, and if you're wanting to do this then it'll be fine."

So about 18 months, halfway through that tour, into that assignment, another more senior than I was chaplain came in to the organization. The Senior Chaplain felt the need to assign him there. And so what I thought had been kind of promised to me as a long-term assignment, now I was being told I would not be able to do this anymore, that I would have to move from the Family Housing area chapel to the recruit training command, which of course was in Orlando where they trained recruits at the time, men and women recruits. So that wasn't particularly bad but I was really enjoying where I was and I thought the people loved me and I loved them and it was a great assignment and it was working terrifically. But it just -- and I wasn't going to be able to stay there. So again it was kind of a disappointment. But we went to the recruit training command-- and of course that was great. I loved the recruits, loved what they were doing. I was able to get out there gung-ho with them and be involved with them. And we had a couple of thousand recruits in chapel every Sunday, and so it was just a great ministry. There I had a Senior Chaplain who challenged something that I wasn't aware of, or thought that was different than what I was being told it was, and that was that I would have to do Communion, the Lord's supper, in a particular kind of way, because we had 2000 recruits in this service and we had to get them through Communion in a timely fashion because of the schedule, because we had several services every Sunday morning. Well the way this Senior Chaplain, who was not of my faith group, wanted me to do Communion was I thought and felt a violation of the theological concepts of my denomination. So I told him that I wouldn't be able to do it that way. Of course that created a bit of a problem obviously because I was assigned there, I had to do those services and I had to do Communion, but now I wasn't going to be able to function. So this created a problem. We were able to reach a compromise where I could do Communion in a way that would continue to move the flow of things the way it needed to move but would not violate my convictions. And I think that was again a good learning experience as to how to be able to compromise -- which is not such an ugly word because it didn't compromise my theological convictions and helped us all to see how we could do things a little differently and still get the job done; met the recruits' needs for Communion, and kept the flow moving, met our needs for schedules, but still did not violate anybody's theological convictions.

Zarbock: Would you feel comfortable telling me what the compromise --?

Cappar: Oh sure, I wouldn't mind doing that if you think it's valuable, or could be. The Senior Chaplain wanted me to use what's called an intincture method which is where the chaplain will take the host or the bread morsel and dip it into the wine, or in my case as a Baptist grape juice, and then place that wafer into the mouth of the communicant. So you can see how rapidly that would work. The communicant would step forward, the chaplain would be able to do this and keep that process moving. For me theologically that meant that I was the priest doing that, and as a Baptist that takes away the theological conviction of the priesthood of the believer where the individual communicant or Christian is their own priest. So they take the wafer and dip, or take the wine, or grape juice actually, separately from that, as their own priest. So we decided what we would do is we would use a modified intincture method where I would hold the grape juice and the wafers, and the individual would step forward and then take the wafer, dip it and take it for themselves. And they could still move rather rapidly in doing that but they would be doing it for themselves. Of course in our tradition you would have a separate plate with the bread and then little individual cups with the grape juice and you would pass those, either one right after the other, or separate them, in the process of serving the Lord's Communion, or the Lord's supper; and individuals would then take the wafer and take the cup and drink the cup. So it was modifying-- the compromise was we could still use the same methodology but they would take it for themselves. And that worked out very well. In all of my years, 27 years of Active Duty, serving with the Marines in the field or everywhere, I was able to do Communion pretty much in my own tradition. I could carry my own little cups, my own little wafers, and serve them separately. If I was in a situation where I was working with another chaplain and we needed to use the intincture method, I would always fall back on that modified intincture method and allow them to take it for themselves; and there was never any issue. That senior Presbyterian chaplain felt that that was an okay compromise, and everything worked out fine, it worked great.

The stories that I heard from the recruits were just amazing; I mean, it was quite an education for me. I had grown up in a lower middle-class family, right on the edge between the Black and White sections of town. I had seen a number of things in my own life growing up, but was in a loving family, a Christian family, and to hear the stories of recruits that would just break your heart of family situations that they were coming from, what they had been through in their lives-- incest, molestation, abuse, physical abuse, being battered around; young women who had been in one terrible bad sexual situation after another, family, and then came into the Navy hoping to find some stability and some future for themselves; some, even in those days-- this was around 1980 timeframe-- who had kind of a choice of going to jail or going into the military, hoping to find some semblance of success for their future. And it was just a heartrending situation, but gave me such an opportunity I felt to hopefully make some difference in the counseling that I did, sharing Christ with these individuals, seeing the decisions that were being made, baptisms being conducted, and then being able to be an influence in the lives of the folks who were pushing the recruits, these sailors who are responsible for them, and then helping them in the ways that we could. It was just a marvelous opportunity. So again, even though it broke my heart to have to leave the chapel setting with family in the housing area, to now go to recruits, the opportunities for ministries were just fantastic and a great, great blessing to be able to be a part of that. Finally then came the opportunity now to go serve with the Marines. This original calling that I thought I'd felt-- not really feeling like I could go to Marines when the Navy Chaplain Corps wanted me to do that-- now was giving me an opportunity to serve with the Marines, and not only that but to go overseas to Okinawa to do that. So those orders came and the assignment was to the 3rd Force Service Support Group, which was not grunt Marines, it wasn't the division Marines, but it was the combat service support element of the Marine Corps. So when I got to Okinawa the opportunity to serve with the Landing Support Battalion, which was the battalion of Marines that was as close as it could be to the infantry, to the grunt Marines, even though it was still combat service support. So that was again a great opportunity. Finally I was able to get to do this thing that I had wanted to do all these years.

Zarbock: Now how old are you, what is the year, and what was your rank?

Cappar: That was 1981 when I had an assignment there. I had moved up to Lieutenant-commander while I was serving with the Recruit Command, and had just turned 30. So just before getting these orders I had made Lieutenant-commander, turned 30, and had finally gotten awarded my Doctor of Ministry degree that I had been working on for these years, trying to get all that accomplished while still being an Active Duty chaplain. So that year, 1981, was kind of a banner year. Also it was a very sad year because it was the year my father passed away, even though I was only 30-years-old at the time. He had had heart trouble for a few years and then had had a serious heart attack and had died. So we had both, all those grand, wonderful things happening and then this tragedy as well.

Zarbock: You brought your whole family with you.

Cappar: I was able to take my whole family to Okinawa. However, for the first six months we were unaccompanied. They had to stay in Orlando because we had a house that we had purchased that we had planned to sell, and it was our first home, it was a small home. Interest rates in those years was 15%, and new homes had been built around us that were offering a lower interest rate, and in fact they kind of built a lot of little like cracker-jack boxes, and they were offering people about $1000 just to sign to buy the home. So we had a lot of stiff competition to sell our home and we felt like that we needed to do that before my family could join me. So I went out and was there six months before we finally decided to rent our home, because we couldn't sell it. And the Lord provided a perfect situation with a minister and his family who moved into that home. The church rented the home for him and did repairs on the home, up to $100 per repair. It was a perfect situation but it took us six months to get to where the Lord provided that for us. So during that six months of course it gave me a good opportunity to get really entrenched in the command. And in fact I made a deployment to Korea for three months. So for three months out of that six months that we were separated I would've been separated anyway. And we kind of kept extending it. Well can the family come now, can the family come a little bit later? And so finally after six months they were able to get there. But it was doing what I had always really wanted to do and was very excited about the assignment. Had hoped for the opportunity-- because I had a platoon of Marines who were cargo delivery and therefore they all had to be jump qualified-- I had hoped to be able to be jump qualified. In those days we didn't want chaplains to get jump qualified.

Zarbock: Jump as in parachuting?

Cappar: As in parachuting, yes. It was one of those things that chaplains just didn't do; it was kind of weird if you did. But it was something that I had an opportunity to do and wanted to be able to do. But the chief-of-staff, or the general's staff, would not approve my orders. The battalion commander was willing for me to do it. There was an opening in Jump School, right there on Okinawa, but the chief-of-staff felt for some reason that this was not what chaplains should do and so he wouldn't approve my doing it. The commanding general in fact felt it was okay but the chief-of-staff kind of vetoed the opportunity. But it was an opportunity in those days under what the Marine Corps then called Special Services, that they allowed people in the civilian program to actually get qualified for skydiving. So we used military aircraft and we used military parachutes and we had a military jumpmaster, but it was not under Special Services, so you couldn't get jump qualified as a military qualification. So I went and did that anyway. So my Marines knew that I was parachuting, skydiving if you will, on the weekends, even though I couldn't do it with them officially in the military. So it was another way of being able to identify with my Marines, and that they knew that this was what I was doing and that I was just as qualified as they were, if you will, because I was jump qualified by a master, a jumpmaster. And so it really helped I think in terms of the identification with Marines. That was the tour of duty with Marines where I had this misunderstanding with the Commanding Officer, and we just pretty much had to work it out the best way we could. I let him believe that he was the chaplain for Marine officers, but I continued to counsel with them. And he counseled me a couple of times about loyalty, that I wasn't loyal to him as I should've been, and he did mark me down on my fitness reports in that area. But somehow we made it through. Now that was a great assignment. My daughter had a pediatric neurologist available at the Naval Hospital, even at Okinawa. And of course we had to go through the screening and because there was one there she was able to have what she needed. And the special education that was available overseas in the Department of Defense schools was just terrific; the greatest, in fact the best educational situation we ever had anywhere for her. And so that really was great. And my son enjoyed those years meeting Japanese friends and being in Department of Defense schools and so forth. So it was a great assignment, we loved it.

Going from there I wanted to go to graduate school. The opportunity in the Navy to do one year of graduate school had always existed and it was kind of-- but that was based on what the Navy called subspecialties. So your graduate school education provided for your subspecialty which the Navy needed to meet its needs. And so this idea about not getting graduate education that I had experienced earlier, as I was just coming into the Chaplain Corps, now had been kind of channeled that as long as you got your specialized education in the field that the Navy had approved subspecialty for, that that worked out, you see. That really kept you from saying, "Well I have this education so I want this kind of an assignment." The Navy says, "You have this kind of education and this is the assignment we're going to give you." And that would've suited my needs fine because I had this interest in counseling and in marriage counseling, and they had a subspecialty in the area of pastoral care, or pastoral counseling. So I really wanted that subspecialty. So when I applied for that however the Chief of Chaplains Office, the Senior Chaplain responsible for that said, "Well don't you already have a Doctor of Ministry degree?" See, I had never told them that I had that because I knew that it would disqualify me for getting education. It wasn't unlawful, it just was this policy that really wasn't a written policy, just kind of a practice of the Navy. So I wasn't doing anything unlawful but I really didn't want to advertise that I had this senior degree or this advanced degree. So but of course when they asked me about it I had to say, "Oh yes, I do have a Doctor of Ministry." And they said, "Well then that disqualifies you to get this education, the advanced graduate school assignment." So I wrote a letter to the Chief of Chaplains and I said, "I didn't understand that this in fact was the policy." And he wrote back and he said, "Well it's really not a policy but it is a practice that we normally practice and the Senior Chaplain was applying that." He said, "But you don't want to go to graduate school anyway." He said, "What you want to do is go to the Senior Course, the Chaplains School Senior Course." And I said, "Okay sir, I understand."

Zarbock: I didn't know I wanted to do that.

Cappar: Yes, I didn't know I wanted to--.

Zarbock: Now that you've told me I wanted to do that that's what I want to do.

Cappar: Yes. So in fact I got orders to the Chaplains School, to the Senior Course, to leave Okinawa and go there.

Zarbock: At Newport?

Cappar: That was in Newport, Rhode Island, where I had been for the Basic Course, of course, and this was a nine-month assignment, a school assignment. But it was accompanied, you take your family there with you for that-- it ends up being a little less than a year of schooling-- and then you move on to another assignment. So we went out there as a family, and that was a great assignment. We did have to travel some distance, because we were in Newport which is quite a ways from Providence, and we had to go some distance to get our daughter the treatment that she needed. But we were able to do that and we got through that year just fine. It was a great assignment.

Zarbock: There was a substantial change in the weather though.

Cappar: Oh yes. In fact we had grown up in Florida, had been in Norfolk where it was a little cooler and so forth, then back to Florida, and then to Okinawa, from Florida. So it was-- Okinawa of course is about the same latitude as Orlando, Florida. So we had experienced the same kind of weather for all those years and had grown up in the tropical kind of weather and it was great. And then going in-- we went there in the month of August and it was already in the 50s at nighttime. So that was quite a difference. And then of course it became much cooler very soon. But we loved all the ice and snow things that we went through and had great fun for that year. It was a great educational opportunity. And I had chosen the final work, that we all had to do as a project, in the area of manpower where you looked at-- I looked at historically how the Navy Chaplain Corps had done manpower things; and that was not personnel assignments but billets and the management of the Chaplain Corps positions that were available and how that system worked, and so had gotten a bit of an education about that. As a result then it was natural to follow on to the Chief of Chaplains office and to work manpower for the Chief of Chaplains.

Zarbock: This is in Washington DC?

Cappar: Washington DC, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, which was really a subsection of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Zarbock: Where did you live in DC?

Cappar: We lived about 35 miles south of DC in the area that's called Montclair, near Dumfries, Virginia, which is about 9 miles from Quantico. So it was great. I got to go to Quantico from time to time as a part of my assignment-- also just to do shopping there-- and to visit with Marine chaplains, which was where my love was, but to be assigned on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains. Most chaplains will tell you that they don't want to go to Washington and they don't want to be on the staff of Chief of Chaplains because it's a headache. You're not doing ministry, you're doing administrative work. You're dealing with all of the stuff that's not usually chaplain stuff that you have to do, and you have to put up with all the Washington DC traffic and all of those nightmarish issues. Somehow I think a lot of times chaplains kind of say that when secretly they'd really like to be assigned to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains. Not everybody gets to do that.

Zarbock: Who was Chief of Chaplains in those days?

Cappar: Chaplain McNamara was the Chief of Chaplains when I first went there and then Chaplain Koeneman became the Chief of Chaplains.

Zarbock: How do you spell that?

Cappar: K-O-E-N-E-M-A-N. And so actually-- my memory's failing me-- I think it was reversed, Chaplain Koeneman was there initially and he was the one that had brought me-- or no, Chaplain Koeneman was the deputy chief at that time. Chaplain McNamara was Chief of Chaplains, when I first went there, and then Chaplain Koeneman became the Chief of Chaplains, because he was the chief when I was to leave from there for my next assignment.

Zarbock: How long was that duty assignment?

Cappar: That was a three-year assignment, three years. And it was a great, great education. I loved being on the staff of Chief of Chaplains. I liked being in the Pentagon. Our offices were in the Pentagon annex, what's called the Navy Annex, which is where they-- at that time the headquarters for the Commandant of the Marine Corps was in the Navy Annex. So you were there in the midst of where all the decisions were being made, where all the policies were being processed. Even though my specialty and special area I was responsible for was manpower and all the billets, you got to see the entire Navy Chaplain Corps billet structure, to work with that-- losing billets, gaining billets, arguing for new billets, arguing not to lose billets. And to be involved with the upper echelons of the Navy, to see how all that worked, and it was just a great education, it was a great opportunity. As for not having ministry opportunities, I led a Bible study in the annex. I did counseling for people in the annex. So I sought every opportunity to continue to do ministry. However, there is the sense in which if you don't do that you will shrivel up spiritually. I mean, the Chief of Chaplain's office has prayer every day, there's devotional time, all of those things as much as possible, and you're working with chaplains. But in terms of doing ministry you will dry up spiritually. The Chief of Chaplains approved for me, while I was there, to serve as an interim pastor in a civilian church. Because essentially the job in the Chief of Chaplain's office was 7:30 to 4:30, 16:30, every day. And I was in a carpool. So you left when your carpool needed to leave, unless you had follow on responsibilities that day. Essentially your job was a 07:30 to 16:30 job and whatever you did outside of those hours was your own time, as long as you didn't conflict with the Navy. So being able to take a position as an interim pastor where I would have Wednesday night responsibilities and Sunday preaching opportunities, and whatever counseling I did could do after hours, and church visitation things, was just a great opportunity. It is called moonlighting, but there is a moonlighting policy.

Zarbock: Where was the church located?

Cappar: It was a few miles from where I lived there, 30 miles south of Arlington.

Zarbock: So it was a handy drive for you.

Cappar: Yes.

Zarbock: It wasn't that you'd have to go on the other side of the Beltline, Beltway.

Cappar: Correct, it was just like four miles from where I lived to the church. And that was a great opportunity to stay ministerally, professionally engaged as a pastor, as well as maintain my job in the Chief of Chaplains Office. And I actually served for about 18 months as the interim pastor in that church. We have a real problem with chaplains who want to pastor and don't want to be a chaplain, and so-- like I say a real problem. There have been isolated cases where that has happened. So you end up with a conflict because the chaplain is spending all of his time, that he's supposed to be a chaplain, doing things for this church that he has on the side. So you really have to be careful that you don't mix the two and that you keep your time separated. And I was able to do that. And the fact that where I was serving in the Chief of Chaplains Office was 30 miles removed from where the church was, it obviously meant I wasn't running out every day to visit people in the hospital that I should've been using for Navy chaplain time. So it was pretty easy to keep those separated and I'm very grateful the Chief of Chaplains allowed me to do that; and it was not a conflict of interest or of responsibilities. But that was a great assignment and loved every bit of it. And it was something different, it was staff duty. And what was important normally in the flow of things for promotion was that you would have sea duty, you would have shore duty, you would have staff duty. And so at this point in my career, as I was coming up on Navy Commander, things were working and flowing in that direction for promotion purposes as well, and in fact I did make Commander while I was on the Chief of Chaplains staff. So as I came to the end of that assignment and was looking at what I wanted to do next, in fact the Chief of Chaplains asked me, "What do you want to do for your next assignment?" And I said, "Well you know I've always wanted to be with the Marines and it would just tickle me pink to let me go back to the Marines. And now this has been a shore tour so I need an operational sea tour, and Marines counts for a sea tour, so that's what I'd like to do." "You've already had sea duty with the Marines, you don't want to do that." And I said, "Well I tell you what I've always really wanted to do was to be on the staff of the Chaplains School. The opportunity to be able to touch the lives of these young chaplains, coming on Active Duty or into the Chaplain Corps, to be able to influence them, educate them, give them the value of my experience, and now having been on your staff here Sir, to be able to take that to the Chaplains School and influence these young chaplains would be just a marvelous opportunity. I'd love to do that." He said, "You don't want to do this. This is a-- you're on a staff tour now. That's a staff tour. You don't want back-to-back staff tours." I said, "Okay sir."

Zarbock: What do I want to do?

Cappar: Absolutely, "What do I want to do?" And he said, "What you want is ship duty. You want to go back to Navy ships." I said, "Oh okay, what ships do I want to go to?" And he said, "You want to go to a battleship." I said, "That would be a great assignment, I'd love a battleship tour." He said, "You get with the detailer and find out which battleship is coming available; that's what you want to do." So I did, and the USS Iowa was coming open. Those were the years-- that was 1989, '88/'89, when they were recommissioning battleships, World War Two battleships-- the Missouri and in this case the Iowa, the Mississippi.

Zarbock: Wisconsin.

Cappar: I mean the Wisconsin-- the Mississippi was a cruiser that they had commissioned when they were younger with cruiser duty-- yes, the Wisconsin. So that was an opportunity to go onboard a battleship. There was already-- one chaplain had been the first after it had been recommissioned and I went in following him. So I was going to have orders to the Iowa. In 1989 I was supposed to go in the month of June to the Iowa. In the month of April it was on a workup cruise, and that was the year the Iowa had its serious turret explosion, and I think it was 46 Marines- I mean Navy who had died, in that turret explosion. And so I had had orders, I knew I was going to that ship. So I went from DC down to Norfolk when the ship came back from the Caribbean where it had had its workup cruise, and was there to receive families and to be a part of that ministry to them. And then went to Dover, Delaware where the bodies were transported, to receive those bodies as well and to be a part of that ministry there. It was not the best way to start a tour of duty. But in terms of entrenching myself as the chaplain, with the command, and becoming a part real quick of what needed to be done in terms of ministry, it really did. Of course Seattle and the Navy agreed, felt like what was going to be best for the ship would be to go ahead and deploy; of course they considered not deploying it. The moratorium, of course, was put in immediately on being able to fire the guns, the big guns, on the battleships, and nobody was able to fire them for some time. But they were able to get the repairs done enough to the turret so that even without that gun we could make the cruise. And so-- of course the difficulty now was, even though that might've been best for the ship they thought, was that the ship sailors had just been through this traumatic experience in the March/April timeframe, and now in June are deployed. I was not able-- my orders were not effective until July, so I was able to minister to them as much as possible while still having my Chief of Chaplains job. And then the ship deployed in June and then I joined them actually while they were at sea in the month of July. So you can imagine the dynamics on that ship. It's under extreme scrutiny and investigation. We've got senatorial staff and Navy investigators coming on board, all the interviews with our officers and with our enlisted people.

Zarbock: All of the rumors that float around.

Cappar: Yes absolutely, all of those rumors, everything that's coming by mail from home to the sailors. Email was coming in vogue and we had a lot of restrictions as to how we could use it. But all of this stuff coming to the sailors. Just a lot of tension. The previous priest and Protestant chaplain rotated off of the ship and so it was a new priest and myself coming aboard as the command chaplain, the Senior Chaplain-- just a lot of tension, a lot of dynamics involved in that. But a wonderful opportunity for ministry, a great time to meet people's needs, to minister, to counsel; opportunities, of course, for worship services, memorial services, just a lot of opportunities for the ministry. It was a great time. But it was a lot of upheaval because even though the moratorium was lifted, they were able to shoot the guns again, and were able to demonstrate that the guns did work and that they were safe and all of that-- so a lot of kudos for good things that we were doing-- still the Navy was trying to decide what they were going to do with battleships, and this particular battleship. They decided, of course, in time, that they would decommission all the battleships. Part of the reason there was because of manpower; 1500 crew members, and they just couldn't continue to put that many people on ships anymore. But the Iowa just continued to suffer. Even though it was doing great things, a good service record in terms of what it was doing, just could not overcome the explosion, and so they decided to decommission it. And so even though I had been out-- it was supposed to be a 30-month tour and I'd only been onboard at that point 15, 16 months, they decommissioned it. So that was going to end my tour. But that was a great opportunity for ministry and even to the CO, to the executive officers that we had, because of all the dynamics. So then the Navy said, "Well what are we going to do with you? We're decommissioning your ship, you're only halfway into your tour." They said, "We'll let this count as an operational tour. So you can now go to shore duty, if that's what you want to do." I looked at the shore duty assignments that were available and there was a great chapel opportunity. I lived in Chesapeake-- the ship was in Norfolk, and I could've gone to the Air Station in Oceana, and that would've been a great, great assignment, but we would've had to move anyway because there was no way I could minister effectively, I felt, living 20 miles from where the chapel was. So we would've had to move anyway; and we really liked Okinawa. And as I mentioned, that was where my daughter had had the best education opportunities, and she was now going to be in her last three years of public education. Special education kids can go until the age of 21, till the year in which they turn 22. So this would've been her last three years. And my son, as a teenager, struggling with being a teenager I might mention-- we thought Okinawa would be a good place for us. So we asked to go back to Okinawa, and we did.

We went back to 3rd Marine Division, in this case, in Okinawa, and I had not been with the division before, so this was a great opportunity to be with grunt Marines, which was really where I'd always wanted to be anyway. And so it was a great opportunity to go back to Okinawa to the division, and I served with the 9th Marine Regiment for a year and then went to the staff at the Division Chaplains Office, and became the Assistant Division Chaplain responsible for training. So it was a great opportunity to go back to Korea. And I had not mentioned earlier that during that first Okinawa assignment, because of the assignments six times I'd had in Korea, and working with the orphanage in Korea, really got to love the people. And my wife and I decided we wanted to adopt a Korean child. So during that first assignment in Okinawa we adopted an infant from Korea. Now being assigned back in Okinawa, when she was now 7-years-old, and a great opportunity to visit Korea again and take her so that she could see where she had been born and lived as an infant. It was just a wonderful opportunity for ministry and to be back with the Marines and to be back in the Orient once again.

Zarbock: Chaplain, a question that I've asked all of the chaplains, hereto now. Given the whole span of experiences, from your coming of age days, family experience, rearing children, military experiences, what credo have you developed for yourself?

Cappar: I'm not sure if it's been something developing through the years, and how much the Navy was, and the Marine Corps, an influence on that. In recent years we have begun a nonprofit organization, Miracle Meadows, which is a therapeutic riding center. And what I've come to discover is that the Lord helps those who trust in him to help them. That's a little different than the Lord helps them that helps themselves, because that kind of puts a whole lot on me, and if I can do it yes well then the Lord will give you some help. But I've come to believe that the Lord really does expect me to do a lot, to help myself. I can't just drift through saying, "Well he's going to do it all." I've got to play the game smartly, to do the ministry that he's called me to do, to do the work that he requires me to do, and that if I will trust him to help me to do all of that, that he will indeed help me.

Zarbock: Chaplain, thank you for making the time for the interview-- nobody takes time, you make it. Thank you, I've enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you, Sir.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign