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Title:
Interview with Glenn Krans, June 18, 2003
Date:
June 18, 2003
Description:
Interview with Lieutenant Commander U.S. Navy and Chaplain Glenn Krans.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Krans, Glenn Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  6/18/2003 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes

 

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Randall library. Today is the 18th of June in the year 2003. We’re at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Today, we are interviewing Chaplain Glen Krans. Chaplain Krans is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy and serves as one of the chaplains here on this Base.

Zarbock: Good morning sir. How are you?

Krans: Good morning.

Zarbock: Sir, what series of events or what combination of people led you into selecting the ministry as a professional occupation?

Krans: The short answer is, I had the ministry selected for me by my parents. There’s a story behind that. I could go into the whole history of that, how my folks got religion and all that, if you prefer. My mom and dad met and got married. They weren’t much for religion. They had a kind of nodding acquaintance with the Lord, but never took things too seriously until their first son came along. That was me!

They decided to have me fireproofed. Baptized that is! They went to the closest little church in their neighborhood ,which happened to be a Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod Congregation. The pastor there, Gerhardt W. Zuberbier, got a hold of my dad and made a very religious man out of him. Today I guess you’d say he found Jesus.

Zarbock: What year was that, Chaplain?

Krans: I was baptized in the year 1947. My dad, later on, held every office that that church had. He became a very devout Christian. Lutheran Christian, and it became his and my mom’s, most fervent desire that all their children should enter church work professions. Myself the eldest, my younger brother and two younger sisters were those who followed that path. This choice was made known to us when we were very young. I knew from the fourth grade that I was going to be a pastor.

Again, it was our love for dad and the absolute lack of any better idea. We went along with the plan and that worked for me for a good long time until I got into college and seminary, started questioning that.

Zarbock: Where did you go to college?

Krans: I went to college in Austin, Texas at Concordia Junior College and then later on, the last two years of my B.A., I took at Fort Wayne, Indiana. Concordia Senior College.

Zarbock: This facilities are supported by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church, am I correct?

Krans: That’s right. Then I went to seminary at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. It was during those years that I began to question the validity of that plan for myself, my vocation as a minister. But through a combination of circumstances, I really didn't act on that conviction right away. It wasn’t until I graduated and became ordained and into my first call that I decided I didn't want to be a pastor anymore.

Got out, knocked around, did a bunch of other things. Laid bricks for a while, pumped gas for a while, worked at a factory for a while until I was called, I think personally called, by the Holy Spirit to be a pastor. It was my decision at that time.

Zarbock: How old were you at that time?

Krans: Oh Lord, let’s see, this would have been in 1979. So I would have been 32 years old.

Zarbock: Were there events going on in the world swirling around you that would contribute to this decision. Wars, famines, plagues?

Krans: Well, it was right in the middle of the Vietnam era of course, so my decision to stay in seminary was prompted by my desire to retain my 4-A Draft Deferment and stay out of that war. You know, looking back on that now I really think, in my heart of hearts, that that’s one of the main things that contributed to my wanting to become a military chaplain later on. We’ll get to that later on I guess. That’s a connection there in my own heart and soul.

Anyway it was during the Vietnam Era that I began to have my doubts about whether I wanted to be a pastor or not. My lack of desire to go to Vietnam led me to stay in the program until I basically couldn’t stand it anymore, and got out. Got out of the ministry entirely for about 3-1/2 years.

Zarbock: Were you married at that time?

Krans: I was married in 1969, so yes.

Zarbock: What was your wife’s attitude towards this sort of hop, skip and jump?

Krans: Well (laughter), my wife has always been very supportive. She has real strong opinions about things. About most everything actually, but, bless her heart, she pretty much lets me do what I need to do especially in areas that are important. She is a woman of great faith. A lot of that sustained me in my coming and goings, ups and downs. She’s always been there.

So anyhow, I got back into parish ministry back in 1978-79. I took a call in a parish in Seguin, Texas, named after the first mayor of the town, Juan Seguin who was, by the way, at the Alamo with Davy Crockett, all those guys, a survivor of the Alamo. I was pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church in Seguin, Texas for nine years. It was during that time that an Air Force Reserve Chaplain got a hold of me and recruited me into the Air Force Reserves, but that’s another story.

How are we doing so far? As far as the things that led me into the ministry? Doing okay? So to make a long story short, it was my dad’s idea at first and then later on ,I want to say it was my own idea, but I have to think the Holy Spirit had something to do with it.

Zarbock: But you weren’t on the road to Damascus and were knocked off a horse or anything like that?

Krans: Nothing as dramatic as that. Actually what happened was; I was in the middle of a pretty boring job in a factory in Austin, Texas. My home congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church on Red River Street in Austin, Texas, became vacant. The pastor died. They needed somebody to help serve the vacancy and they actually called upon me! A pastor of the Missouri Synod who was on the Reserve Roster at the time and working at something else, called me to help serve the vacancy!! Wasn’t that a kick in the pants?

I got to stand up in that big pulpit of that marble church where Pastor Jesse had preached for so many years. He was like God, to us kids. I got to do that. It was quite a bit through that experience, having been accepted and loved, and my contributions cherished by those people who meant so much to me, that I became convinced that I could do this! This was something I would like to do!!

It was still a long and very prayerful process, but it was during the time that I served that vacancy that I became convinced that I should go back on the Active oster and seek a call. That’s when we went to Seguin. That was my first call in the pastor ministry.

Zarbock: What was the size of the church?

Krans: We had about 110 or 115 families, 306 baptized, 280 some communicants. That’s at the high point.

Zarbock: Sort of an average sized congregation?

Krans: In a Missouri Synod church, that’s right dead center. So it was then that Chaplain Carter from the Air Force came and recruited me in the Chaplain Corps. Well as they say, there we were, my family and I lounging about the house on a typical Sunday afternoon just enjoying the day. The telephone rings and it’s Chaplain Carter. He’s over at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio and they have a vacancy there for the command chaplain slot.

He was trying to recruit a reserve chaplain out of the area. He’s been working all weekend calling every church in the yellow pages trying to find somebody who might be interested to do military duty. You know how long he’d been working on that because he got to the outlying areas like Seguin and still hadn’t found anybody. He asked me “if I ever considered being a military chaplain in the Reserves?”

I said, “ No. But, I thought I’d be interested.” He said, “Don’t go anywhere”, he would be right there. Thirty-five minutes later, he showed up at my front door with a watermelon under one arm for the kids and a stack of recruiting literature in the other hand for me. Got into the Air Force Reserves, category A, Ready Reservist. I did my weekend warrior thing. It was a paid billet. Absolutely fell in love with the Chaplaincy.

Zarbock: What was your rank?

Krans: I came in as an O3, Captain in the Air Force. Did that for four or five years and then moved into a vacancy up at Bergstrom Air Force Base in my hometown of Austin, Texas. That’s the town where I grew up. I became affiliated with the 10th Air Force Headquarters. Did Staff Assistance visits all over the country for all of our units. That billet had with it a promotion, so I became a Major.

I stayed in the Air Force Reserves for about seven and a half years until I decided that the Lord was calling me into Active Duty, full time. The Air Force didn't have any room for me at the time so I applied to the Navy because as the word was out, “The Navy needed baby baptizers! Chaplains who would baptize infants!” We had enough of the other kind, who would baptize Believers, but didn't have enough baby baptizers.

Zarbock: Again, the viewers of this videotape are going to be a little bewildered by that categorization.

Krans: In the Navy, basically, we have four categories of chaplains right now. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim. Back in the days when I joined, there were just three divisions, the very familiar Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. All of us Protestants are kind of lumped together in one big category. Anybody who’s not Catholic or Jewish is a Protestant. It gets kind of bizarre after a while, because you know Mormons, Unitarians and everybody is included in that.

Within that category there are the more kind of Fundamentalistic, Evangelical Protestants, who believe in Believer Baptism! ‘You don’t baptize people until they’re teenagers or adults.’ Then there are people, like us, who believe in infant baptism and the Navy just didn't have enough Infant Baptizers, so they were recruiting the dickens out of us. So it was kind of a shoe-in for me. I got in right away.

Zarbock: With all due respect, Chaplain, that is the most unusual recruitment categorization I’ve ever heard and thank you for the introduction of that category.

Krans: Yes, it’s a little strange, but there it is.

Zarbock: You think of the Navy, with all that water?! Sorry, I couldn’t resist that. Now how old were you when you went on full time duty with the Navy?

Krans: When I went on full time Active Duty, I was 38-1/2 years old, almost 39. That’s typical now of Navy over the last few decades. We are what they call the “gray shepherds”. Yeah, mostly older guys.

Zarbock: Why?

Krans: Have no idea. I’ll tell you in my case. I think that I would have been interested in the Chaplaincy long before Chaplain Carter knocked on my door if only I had known that there was such a thing. I just absolutely was in the dark. They didn't make much of it in the seminary, although Martin Scharlemann, was one of my theology teachers, I didn't know it at the time, was a General in the United States Army Reserves, but they didn't advertise that stuff back then. I think they wanted us all for a parish actually.

That was probably a pretty common experience for most of us. We started off in a parish because that’s the bread and butter. Ninety-eight percent of us go that way and then we kind of split off from there. I got into the Navy in 1986.

Zarbock: What sort of training did you get? You’ve gone civilian ,to Air Force, now you’re now in the Navy.

Krans: When I was in the Air Force, I went through Basic Chaplaincy School in Montgomery, Alabama in 1980, and then, what they called, Career Course, four or five years later, 1985 I think, again in Montgomery. I entered the Navy, our Chaplain School is up in Newport, Rhode Island. That’s an awesome introduction to the Navy subculture, to go to Newport, Rhode Island. Wow! Incredible!!. What a maritime village.

You’re close to everything. Boston. New York. Everywhere! I really, really enjoyed that. That was in 1986.

Zarbock: How long did this training take?

Krans: This was 14 weeks at the time.

Zarbock: What was the nature of the curriculum?

Krans: The way I like to put it is, that a wonderful exercise in putting five pounds of stuff into a 10 pound sack. Took way more time than it needed to, because we were already fully qualified as pastors. They gave us two weeks’ worth of Navy Customs and Traditions. We were supposed to have one week’s familiarization to the Marine Corps, where we learned how to dig a fighting hole, and rip rappell out of a helicopter, and things like that.

Zarbock: I’m sorry, was that optional?

Krans: No.

Zarbock: That was part of the curriculum.

Krans: Well, that’s because during a career in the Navy, most everybody is going to have a tour or two with the Marines, so you had to know all these things. The rest of it was just stuff! There was Ethics. “Gosh, I don’t remember all the stuff we had. Oh, a lot of us learned how to be a Staff Officer. Planning, Programming, Budgeting. How to write a point paper? How to deliver a briefing. Things like that.”

Zarbock: You sound a little under-whelmed with that curriculum.

Krans: It’s different today. They’ve changed it a lot, improved it a lot. It’s still about the same length of time. I think it’s 11 or 12 weeks now, but they’ve added a teams course. They actually teach you some tools that you’re going to use once you get out in the Chaplain Corps, the Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory, the Prep system of marriage counseling and things like that. They give you all these certifications to take with you, great stuff.

Zarbock: Really, methods courses?

Krans: Pretty much. Didn't have that back in the day that I attended, but again it was a good familiarization with the Navy subculture. That was mostly what I needed. I already knew how to salute and march. The Air Force taught me that, but a lot of the guys didn't when they showed up.

Zarbock: Was your family with you?

Krans: No. It was a bachelor oriented thing. So I went away, left my family in Texas in Seguin. Went away and trained for those three months. Then went home, grabbed them up, moved our stuff, went and reported to my first Duty Station in Charleston, South Carolina. I guess we’re ready to move onto that segment now. Tours of duty?

First tour of duty was Charleston, South Carolina. When my recruiter called and told me I had been accepted into the Chaplain Corps, I was to report to Newport on such and such a date, my first assignment was going to be DESRON 6, Charleston, South Carolina. I said, “Oh that’s wonderful Chaplain Nixon, I know where Charleston is, but tell me what’s a DESRON?” I had no idea, I’m Air Force!

It turns out, it was destroyer squadron six and it was a desk job. It was working with a squadron of a dozen or so ships, small ships, frigates and destroyers and just taking care of the pastoral needs of those people while they were tied up at the pier. They were in Charleston, didn't involve any getting underway time or anything.

Zarbock: What would you do? Would you just board a ship and make yourself available?

Krans: That was the agenda, Monday through Friday , we’d go ship visiting and visit anybody who had any pastoral needs. We’d made it known through the Command Master Chief that we were coming. We’d put the word out, and usually we’d set up on the mess decks or the ward room or somewhere, the library, the lounge and make it known that the Chaplain was on board usually for a morning or an afternoon. People would make appointments to come in and talk.

Zarbock: Two questions. What was the nature of the attitude of the ship’s Captain or the officers on the ship towards you and number two? Why would people come to see you?

Krans: I’ll take the second part first , I guess. Most of the visits I did on board, the counseling that I did, fell into two categories. The first one was marital difficulties. Did a lot of marriage counseling during those days. The second was basically,” I want to get out of the Navy , “ counseling. You know?, “I’m a drug addict! .I’m homosexual! I’m a draft dodger! I’m a protester! I need to get out of this chicken outfit!!.”

Zarbock: What was your role on either one of these? What would you do with, you know, my wife is running around with 17 different guys in Walla-Walla, Washington and the other I’ve got all these social categorizations and I want to get out? What was the role of the chaplain in either one of these?

Krans: To listen. With the first category, the marital counseling thing, sometimes I’d get into medium term relationships with those couples that looked like they were really, really open to therapy. I’d meet with them for a few sessions and then try to refer them to someone for longer term therapy. We had some success in that. It was a real good way of kind of opening the door for people of whatever the Navy had to offer them in terms of marital counseling.

I really was grateful to be able to do that. As far as the other part of it was concerned, most of it was the people were just dissatisfied. They needed to grow up a little bit, the “I want to get out of the Navy “, people. They needed me to listen, to empathize, to reflect with them on what may be ahead of them if they keep on this course. Give them a little reality check.

Zarbock: But a recommendation from the Chaplain’s Office was not required?

Krans: No, it was not. So that’s mainly what we did. The attitude of the ships’ officers and crew toward the chaplain coming on board was uniformly positive. They - everyone of them -- welcomed us aboard. They thought that it was great that we were coming aboard. Welcomed our services.

As a matter of fact, even though this was not a deploying billet that I was in, I stayed there for three full years and managed to rack up a year and six months of sea time, just doing it in bits and pieces ‘cause the Captain would say, “How about getting underway with us during this exercise , or this cruise to the North Atlantic Countries, you know, for six weeks, and be their chaplain for that time? “

So I asked the Commodore,” Can I go TAD with this particular ship? “ And he’d say, “Ok. You’re blessed. Go ahead, and I’d get underway”

Zarbock: Again for the purpose of the tape, you introduced an idea about sea time. Could you define it and illustrate that?

Krans: There are two kinds of jobs in the Navy for chaplains or for anybody for that matter. There’s sea rotation and shore rotation. While you’re on sea duty, there’s a thing called a Sea Service Counter. Every day you spend at sea is credited to your Sea Service Calendar as one day, and you get special pay for being underway. When you’re on Sea Duty, you get an extra $100 a month or something, I don’t know what it is. When you’re on shore duty, not getting underway all the time, that doesn’t apply.

Zarbock: Would Sea Duty contribute to any form or fashion for promotions?

Krans: Theoretically, you’re supposed to have a balanced career. You’re supposed to alternate shore duty and sea duty back and forth in order to have a good career progression. Although there are a lot of people that get promoted with a non-standard career path.

I’ll tell you I was really happy with that tour, being able to rack up that much sea time in a non-deploying billet. I was just in love with going out to sea. The fact that I didn't go out with any two ships in a row, it was always a different captain, different crew, different ship, different mission, made things incredibly interesting.

I bunked where they had room for me sometimes in the Officer’s Territory, sometimes in the Chief’s area, sometimes in the civilian berthing area , way down below deck near the engine room. It was kind of interesting. I’d make my rounds and do my counseling and teach classes, hold services. It was great. It was a lot of fun.

Zarbock: That’s another question. When you say you held services, characteristically only on Sunday or would you do something midweek or every day?

Krans: I was encouraged to follow my own tradition. Yeah, I’m a “Protestant chaplain”, but none of us are required to do anything that would violate our vows of our own ordination and our church policies. I’m permitted by my church to do a general Protestant service, which is what I do. But on special days like Lent and Advent, which are typically midweek services, I’d do those too by my own tradition.

I’d do other special services. Usually a few days before pulling back into home port, we’d do a little kind of Return Reunion Exercise and give thanks to God for a successful deployment and do special services like that.

Zarbock: You didn't do any burials, did you?

Krans: Oh yes, that was part of every ship’s mission going down to Charleston as I assume it is in every major port. That was every time we went out we had at least one, something two or three burials at sea to conduct. That was all part of the drill. We’d get out past the sea buoy in open waters and slow the ship way down and muster everybody up on deck and have a burial at sea. Sometimes it was ashes, sometimes it was an actual casket with a body in it, but we’d do a full-fledged burial at sea.

Zarbock: Were the decedent’s family on board ship?

Krans: No, not necessarily.

Zarbock: Just the crew?

Krans: We were just assigned by the Decedent Affair people to do this, and it was the crew who did the burial.. No family members aboard.

Zarbock: Rifle salute was included?

Krans: Everything, Taps and folding the flag, a rifle salute, the whole nine yards.

Zarbock: Navy crew do the rifle salute or Marines?

Krans: Navy crew. Sure did. And we videotaped the thing. We videotaped it for them and we usually had a navigational chart with X marks the spot where the burial was done, and turned it over to the family when we got back home. It was a wonderful service that we did.

So that was my first tour, Charleston. As a matter of fact, you know the old slogan, “Join the Navy, see the world!”. That’s not been true for me. For me, it’s been, “ Join the Navy, see the East Coast,” because all of my tours have been right here. I started out in Charleston doing DESRON duty, went to an ammunition ship, U.S.S. Mt. Baker right there in Charleston. Then I moved down the coast to Parris Island, my first tour with the Marines, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island.

From there I went up to the U.S.S. George Washington Aircraft Carrier ported in Norfolk, Virginia. When that was over, I got assigned to Postgraduate School. I did a Pastoral Care Residency at Portsmouth Naval Hospital again in Norfolk, Virginia. Then my next tour was at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital right up the road here. After that I went to the Marine Corps Base right here at Camp Lejeune. All within a couple hundred miles.

Zarbock: But there is a,West Coast, isn’t there?

Krans: There is a West Coast. I haven’t seen any of it. I’ve done the East Coast thing that means I’ve gotten underway on four full size deployments and a number of little TAD junkets to Cuba, the North Atlantic and different places, some drug enforcement ops, but I’ve seen a lot of Europe, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf.

Zarbock: In your chaplaincy, how prevalent was the use of drugs and how prevalent was the use of alcohol and how did it affect military discipline and conduct?

Krans: Well that’s a good question. Probably the answer isn’t terribly surprising, but it also makes me connect with something else that’s an interesting issue when I first came into the Chaplain Corps. I’ll get to that too. We had a big problem with drugs in the early 70’s. I think all the branches of the service had that and it was not just a big problem, it was a huge problem.

In the Navy, we responded to that by forming an organization or a ministry in the Navy called CREDO. That’s an acronym. At the time it stood for Chaplains Response to the Emerging Drug Order. It was a ministry of weekend retreats, personal growth retreats which were calculated to help people deal with their substance abuse problems and their personal issues which may be contributing to their usage of illegal substances.

Zarbock: Was the use of an illegal substance a courts-martial offense?

Krans: Yes.

Zarbock: How did you skirt the courts-martial in order to get them into this program?

Krans: What would happen was back in the early days the drug and alcohol program advisor worked very, very closely with the substance abuse people, the alcohol rehab people and all that. It wasn’t the same way back then as it is today. Today there’s zero tolerance, one hit and you’re out! Back then, you had a little leeway, a little bit of wiggle room. We would try to rehabilitate you first. I’m not really clear on all the details. That really predates my personal knowledge of the program. I’m just passing on some things I heard.

CREDO was one way of trying to address some of those issues. That ministry is still in effect today although the medical community has taken over the thing with the drugs and alcohol treatment. CREDO now stands for Chaplains Religious Education Development Operation and we still do personal growth retreats and marriage enrichment retreats, spiritual growth retreats and a host of other things. CREDO has just this year stood up a mobile training team which goes out and goes with the deployed units on ships, shore stations overseas to help them with return and reunion issues as they come back home.

It’s a marvelously diverse and powerful ministry, which has paid for itself many times over. That’s one of the ways the drug and alcohol thing has impacted the Navy. As I say personally I haven’t seen a whole lot of it. You know the old stereotype the drunken sailor goes into the bar, and he starts a fight with the nearest Marine. It still happens today, but that’s all part of the fun.

Zarbock: The reason I was probing this , was I have spoken with some retired chaplains who have been retired for 20 years, to give you an index of their age, and they were saying in their service, they did not see any drug activity. That came on later as you’re saying in the 60’s and 70’s, when it became virtually epidemic.

Krans: When I was with the U.S.S. Mt. Baker, and that would have been in the late 80’s, early 90’s, we actually had a Deployment delayed by a few days by the Naval Investigative Service, who discovered a drug distribution ring headquartered on the U.S.S. Mt. Baker (laughter). They came in to bust them and took away a half dozen of our shipmates. We got underway a few days late because of that. It’s still there.

Zarbock: I’m going to jump ship. I don’t want to present this in the way of tell me about the problems, but tell me about the change in situation and the change in situation now females on a ship.

Krans: That was the other thing my mind was jumping to when you asked me about drugs and alcohol before. By far the larger adjustment for us, fraught with peril and difficulty, was trying to integrate the crew of male and female. Again it was on the U.S.S. Mt. Baker that I first experienced that. The first contingent of 50 females marched down the pier en masse and walked up the brow and said, “ We’re here.!!”

On my third day as a member of the ship’s company on the U.S.S. Mt. Baker, this happened and believe me, we had quite a challenge trying to keep the males and females apart the first few months. We didn't have any mechanism in place. We had more Captains Masts. That’s the nonjudical punishment that happens on the ship for minor infractions. We had more Captains Masts that first year, or so, having to do with fraternization between males and females.

The Captain was just tearing his hair out. It was incredible. “Chaplain, can’t you do something.? Preach a sermon on the 10 Commandments and stay on the Sixth one for a long time, you know, things like that?” We just could never find a handle on it. The problem solved itself after a while as problems usually do. The males and females just kind of got used to having to live together and make it work. Mission finally superceded all other concerns, but it took some time. It required a lot of patience, a lot of flexibility from all of us. Females have proven to be a great asset to the Navy, they really have.

Zarbock: In that what?

Krans: The Navy, I think the military in general, has always been a kind of a experiment in social change. We’ve always been a little bit ahead of the power curve in terms of response to drugs and alcohol, in response to homosexuals in the military, in response to gender equality in the military and things like that.

Zarbock: How about integration?

Krans: Integration, racial integration? I forgot that one. Yep! We’ve always been a little ahead of the power curve on that in that we took it on before society was ready for it I think and kind of invented some of the rules for it. We saw a lot of it happening back in those days.

Zarbock: What about Navy female chaplains? In your career as a chaplain, have there always been female chaplains or did they come along after you had entered the Chaplaincy?

Krans: There have always been female chaplains since my first day in the Corps, in the Navy anyway. I went to school with a female chaplain. It had taken a while before the female chaplains had risen to positions of power. I think we still only have a handful of full bird Captain females. But there are a lot more of them these days than there used to be. And again they’ve proven to be a great asset.

They brought a whole different dimension, kind of an intuitive, nurturing dimension to pastoral ministry that the guys just don’t have. I hope that doesn’t sound chauvinistic, but I really do believe that God made males and females differently for a reason.

Zarbock: I was going to say it sounds more analytical than chauvinistic.

Krans: You know guys tend to be problem solvers. Girls tend to be listeners and nurturers. God knows we need a lot of that in the Navy. I think the women teach us guys how to just back off and listen and be supportive and nurturing. We need that.

Zarbock: One of the other questions. I’m hitting some of the buttons in my mind is the question I’ve asked of all of the chaplains previously interviewed. Was there ever any time in your career that you were ordered, or broadly hinted or subtly hinted or in some sort of coy way asked to do something, that was in violation of your religious beliefs or personal ethic?

Krans: Yes (laughter). Would you like me to tell you about it?

Zarbock: Yes, indeed.

Krans: Let me preface this by saying I have not been asked frequently to do things outside of what my church or my conscience permitted me to. That includes the way I pray. In the Navy, you know, we do public prayers for change of command and retirements and promotions and graduations. There are more than just Lutherans in the audience, more than just Christians in the audience. We are encouraged to pray a pluralistic prayer and not use the name of Jesus lest it offend our Jewish and Muslim brethren and what have you. The church permits me to pray in that way and my conscience permits me to pray in that way. We are a different breed of cat as military chaplains.

The other thing that the church permits us, and the Navy permits us, is in private situations like warship services, baptisms, and things like that. We are permitted , and encouraged, to follow the dictates of our own denomination so I’ll do a Lutheran Service, for instance ,every place that I go in addition to the general Protestant service that I’m permitted to do. I’ll be able to pray in Jesus’ name in those occasions.

A lot of guys have trouble with that. They want to pray in Jesus’ name all the time. See, even in public occasions? Sometimes they run afoul. But anyway, moving right along, there was one time on the U.S.S. George Washington in a very, very large ship with a very, very large crew with numbering around 6,000 people. We had a very diverse command with this program. We depended a lot on lay readers to conduct many of those programs.

For instance, we had a black Gospel community on board. They had a Sunday night George Washington Christian Men’s Fellowship. Man, that was a happening place. They got down and worshipped the Lord in that way. Very Pentecostal!! Very exciting stuff!! We had a Mormon guy who was licensed by his church, and approved by the C.O. to be our Mormon lay reader. He conducted services in our ship’s library at 10:00 on a Sunday morning and they would have Communion with their bread and water and teach Mormon Doctrine and so on and so forth.

We had a Native American lay reader who conducted a prayer service on Saturday nights in the ship’s library. We all would gather around in a circle and we’d burn the sweet grass and tobacco, use the eagle feather you know, all nine yards, and pray to great-grandfather’s spirit. I used to love to go to that. It was just fascinating stuff.

The part that got me though ,was when we had a kid come up and say he wanted to be Pagan lay reader. Now he wasn’t satanic, but the organization he related to was the Wiccans. The U.S. Army had problems with than a while ago, it raised some difficulties. The Navy hasn’t been challenged by that to quite the same degree, in the same way, but I personally was challenged by this request because way deep in my heart, “I’m a Christian and I believe in what I practice and teach. I don’t want to do anything to take away from the Lord, Jesus Christ in my life or in the lives of the people I care about.”

So for a man to come to me and say, “ I want to be free to worship the Goddess Mother Earth and pursue the Wiccan tradition. I want to be a haven for all the pagans on the ship. Will you facilitate me as a lay reader in that program?” I had a problem with that. I went to my Command Chaplain. He said I should do my research, find out what I could and could not do. So I did my research and read the SECNAV instruction and the OPNAV instruction and the U.S. Code Title 10 and found out that, by golly, I had to facilitate this boy! There was no way around it. I just had to! The Constitution provides for his free exercise.

So I had to go to my Command Chaplain and say, “Chaplain, I realize I have to do it, but I can’t do it” and bless his heart, his comeback was “I understand completely. I absolve you of that responsibility. Even though you are the lay reader coordinator, I will personally coordinate this program” because I had a problem with it. And so he did.

That was a blessing. I could very easily have run afoul of a whole lot of different things if I had been forced to do that. I still give thanks to God and Chaplain Stith for bailing me out of that one. That’s about the only time I can think of that I’ve ever been asked to do something contrary to my own conscience and my vows. Everything else has been pretty easy.

Zarbock: What, if any, was the role of your wife in your career? You know the story about you hire the minister and it’s a twofer. I think that situation is beginning to recede at least in my denomination.

Krans: In a civilian parish it is. It’s beginning to recede. A lot of wives are standing up and saying, “ I’m not going to do that.”

Zarbock: What about in the military, chaplain’s wives?

Krans: My wife from the very first day that Chaplain Carter walked into the house and said, “I want you for the United States Navy”, she had her misgivings mainly because she was concerned for my safety. She’s a good wife. She didn't want anything bad to happen to me. So she knew that being a chaplain in the military even though at first it was the Reserves, might entail a modicum of risk, perhaps in deployments, perhaps in deployment to hot areas. It’s been known to happen.

She registered her misgivings from the very first. She always has, she’s given me my own head, my own leeway in areas that are that important to me and have to do with my ministry, my sense of vocation. This was no exception. She let me know that she was afraid for me and she didn't particularly care for it, wasn’t looking forward to that mobile lifestyle moving every three years, having military brats for kids, you know, and all of that, didn't care for it. But she said if you feel you have to do it, go ahead, I’m with you.

When I made the decision to go Active Duty, we had the same conversation. I don’t like it. I’m afraid of it. I don’t think it’s going to work, but if you feel called to do it, I’m with you. That’s been a blessing. It hasn’t been that bad. As a matter of fact, as a chaplain’s wife, she’s been a gem because every place we’ve ever been, she has great needs for socialization and fellowship and the chaplain’s spouses group is usually the group that takes care of all that for chaplains’ spouses.

Every place that we’ve gone, the chaplains’ spouses group has fallen on hard times. They’re just in bad shape when we get there and she’s dived right in and whipped them into shape. By the time we live, they’re stronger than they’ve ever been. She’s a marvel at that. She’s a good old German girl and she’s very disciplined, very organized and very goal oriented. She’s done well. She’s been very successful as a chaplain’s wife.

Zarbock: You know the children of military chaplains, constitutes a subcategory of children of military personnel. What sort of impact has your life had on your children? What was the influence of your job title chaplain?

Krans: I will say that from the very first day I entered Active Duty, my stress level dropped off dramatically. I enjoyed being a parish pastor, but it’s very stressful for me. Because of my own personal journey, there were some personal factors involved in that stress of being a parish pastor. When I got into Active Duty Chaplaincy, a lot of that stuff dropped off. I was a much happier guy. My kids saw that and appreciated that, made life easier for all of us. So they were glad for that.

But having to leave Seguin, Texas for Charleston, South Carolina was not real high on their list of things to do back in that year. They really hated it. We reported there just before Christmas of that year and lived in a single-wide trailer home while we were waiting for quarters. We rented and had a little scrawny Christmas tree in a corner. We were away from family and friends, in a strange place. Nothing was as it should be.

The day before Christmas, I still remember, my kids got together and started complaining, why are we here, why are we doing this. My second oldest daughter said, “I hate you for doing this to us”. Man, I’ll never forget that. Immediately she took it back, but there were a lot of feelings involved, a lot of feelings. It was our second oldest daughter that had the most difficulty every time I deployed.

As a matter of fact, my second deployment on the aircraft carrier, she was also right slam in the middle of adolescence and hormones and all that and required some therapy. My wife had to handle that because I was gone. She got her some therapy and when I got back, we all went to family therapy. That was a blessing, it really was. She’s better now, but I have to say that that experience of being a military kid, a military chaplain’s kid had a huge impact on her and to a lesser extent the rest of the kids because they missed their dad.

Again my wife, God bless her. Being a Navy wife is the hardest job in the military, but she’s handled it very well.

Zarbock: Who was your pastor? You know as a Navy chaplain serving with the Marines or on shipboard or shore duty, there are all of these stresses. People say fix my marriage, do this, do that, etc. Well after a while this battering gets to all of us so you ministered you?

Krans: We’ve always been able to maintain a very vital and personal and intimate connection with local congregations wherever we’ve been. It hasn’t always been a Missouri Synod congregation, sometimes an ELCA congregation, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. That’s the other major Lutheran body. It hasn’t made any difference to us actually which denomination it was as long as it was Lutheran. We’ve been blessed with a series of wonderful pastors that have taken care of all of us. It’s been great, our involvement with the civilian community.

Zarbock: Other chaplains have mentioned too that their counsel has always been to have one foot in the military and one foot in a civilian church congregation.

Krans: Oh yeah for good spiritual health and mental health too and family health. And then always keep in mind you know your career in the military is going to be over someday. You’re going to have to go back there (laughter), so keep good relations, absolutely.

Zarbock: I was so surprised to have a chaplain be surprised when I asked who was the chaplain to the chaplain. He said, nobody’s ever asked him that before.

Krans: We have you know in the military a very well established chain of command. One of the great things about the way the instructions are written and the chain of command is set up is that the person next up in the chain of command one level up from you is your pastor. So in other words when I was at DESRON-6 in Charleston, my Group Chaplain was my pastor, and indeed a couple of times I can think of, I had some very deep pastoral needs and the man was an absolute saint, counselor, guided me, gave me a safe place to come to vent when I needed to.

Zarbock: A very long time ago when you were very young, there was a song, “I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.” Well I see by your outfit that although you’re in the Navy, you’re wearing battle fatigues for the Marines. Scratch that apart a little bit. What’s it like to be a Navy chaplain serving with the Marines?

Krans: Well let me back up one step and say that having had experience with both the Air Force and the Navy, one of the big differences and one of the big benefits I think of being in the Navy is you get to do a lot of different things. A lot of people don’t know this, but the Marine Corps does not have their own chaplains, nor does the Coast Guard have their own chaplains although we’re all sea services. The Navy supplies chaplains to those other two branches of service.

So we get to wear three different sets of uniforms and perform in three different types of environments. When a chaplain has the awesome grace and blessing of being privileged to serve with the United States Marine Corps, he is also given the privilege of wearing the Marine uniform.

Zarbock: But not the dress uniform?

Krans: We don’t have to. We’re not encouraged to. If a man wants to go out and spend a couple thousand dollars getting the entire Marine sea bag, that’s up to him, but we’re not encouraged to wear the Marine dress blues. The most we’re encouraged to buy are Charlies and deltas which is a kind of a formal dress uniform and of course the battle fatigues which is the uniform of the day pretty much everywhere.

I consider it a privilege to wear this uniform as I consider it a privilege to be assigned to the Marine Corps right now. The Marines love their chaplains and it feels good to be loved. We return that love. We love our Marines.

Zarbock: If I wrote a book about chaplains, I would entitle one of the chapters exactly what you said, The Marines Love Their Chaplains. Why?

Krans: Because we’re there for them when they feel they need us the most, the front lines. When the stuff hits the fan, the two most important people besides the armorer who is going to give you your bullets, the two most important people in your life are your chaplain and your hospital corpsmen because the chaplain is going to pray with you and the corps is going to save your life if you get hit. So the Marines always appreciate the chaplains that way.

As a matter of fact if we’ve got a couple of moments, I want to reflect on something that’s very significant to me serving with the Marines. It’s a unique thing the Marine Corps has. And it reflects the relationship the Marines have with their chaplains I think. There is a piece of religious prose known as the Marines Prayer which I personally consider second only in glory and importance to the Lord’s Prayer itself.

It is a prayer which takes about two minutes to say from top to bottom and so it is kind of a lengthy prayer as prayers go. It’s a short course on ethics and values, is basically what it is. Everything that’s important to a Marine about his spirituality as he serves his country and his corps, deals with things like trust, confidence, dependability, honor, courage and commitment, all those things. Asking God for the strength to do all of this. It’s a marvelous prayer, fantastic prayer.

As a matter of fact, I’d love to read it in the record if we have time. This is the Marines Prayer:

“Almighty Father whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of thy presence and obedient to thy will. Keep me true to my best, self guarding me against dishonest in purpose and deed, and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family. Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm.

Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me. Make me considerate of those committed to my leadership. Help me to wear my uniform with dignity and let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith. If I am tempted, make me strong to resist. If I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.”

Isn’t that amazing?

Zarbock: Thank you. Chaplain, last request? Look directly into the camera lens, talk to your grandchildren. Off camera I mentioned you’ll never be a day older than you are today thanks be to this technology. You’re embalmed like a fly in amber. Tell your grandchildren, what has all your military experience meant to you?

Krans: I have two grandchildren right now, Madison and Taylor. So to Maddie and Taylor and all the other grandchildren yet to come, the most important thing about being a chaplain and about being a Christian either in the military or in the world is simply to obey the command of Jesus, love one another as I have loved you. It boils right down to that.

Zarbock: Chaplain, thank you. The Lord be with you.

Krans: And with you.

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