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Interview with Charles D. Quarles, July 1, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Charles D. Quarles, July 1, 2003
July 1, 2003
Interview with Military Chaplain Charles Quarles.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Quarles, Charles D. Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  7/1/2003 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  Abstract


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s library. This is part of the military chaplain’s project. Today’s date is the 1st of July in the year 2003. We’re at the U. S. Navy Hospital at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, interviewing Chaplain Charles D. Quarles.

Zarbock: Chaplain Quarles, good afternoon.

Quarles: Good afternoon sir.

Zarbock: I wonder would you tell me what event or series of events led you into the selection of the ministry as your profession?

Quarles: I can’t really say that there was one particular individual or one particular series of events as much as it is it always seemed to be the direction my life was naturally taking. The idea of involvement with people, the idea of listening to people, the idea of being a minister and pastor always seemed to be natural to me in a Baptist sort of sense. That’s what I am, Southern Baptist.

Folks would say I fought the call for a while, but then one year at a summer camp or a youth camp that my church sponsors, a fellow by the name of George Ballantine was the new church pastor. He spoke, and I finally came to terms with the fact that I was called to be a minister.

Zarbock: How old were you at that time?

Quarles: I was a senior in high school.

Zarbock: And by the way, where were you living?

Quarles: At that particular time I was living in Augusta, Georgia. My father was a paper maker and we lived in Augusta, Georgia. He worked at one of the local paper mills and I had just finished up working at a Boy Scout Camp for about six weeks teaching Wilderness Survival Merit Badge at this particular camp and then went to this church youth camp. I was there and came to terms with my call.

The interesting thing about that was, this is where it all sort of seems to connect together, I was very active in Boy Scouts from the time I was six years old. I worked my way up, got my Eagle Scout. Worked on summer camp staff. I was very active in an organization called the Order of Arrow, which is a service organization within scouting. Was very involved in the ceremonies team, the dance teams and all that other good stuff.

I was also involved in junior Army ROTC at my high school, which was Richmond Academy High School which has one of the oldest ROTC units in the country or junior ROTC units rather. Anyway, so I’m not really sure how it happened, but I ended up going to the Citadel. I’d already been accepted at the Citadel, which is a military college in South Carolina.

Now this was done prior to my basically accepting the fact that I was called to the ministry. My local pastor had decided, however, that if I was going into the ministry, I really needed to go Furman. So he tried to get me into Furman, but I didn't want to go to Furman so I ended up starting at the Citadel. I was at the Citadel for four years.

Zarbock: And you graduated with a commission in the military?

Quarles: Yes sir, I graduated with a commission in the Army. I was an Armor Officer at the time.

Zarbock: Second Lieutenant?

Quarles: Second Lieutenant. I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Zarbock: Now the year is what?

Quarles: Let’s see, I was at the Citadel from ’75 through ’79. I was commissioned in 1979. I worked at the Boy Scout camp again that summer only this summer as a chaplain and worked there for about eight weeks and finished that up and then went to Armor Officer’s Basic in September of 1979 and was at Armor Officer’s Basic from September of ’79 through January of ’80 and then started seminary at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky in 1980, in February of 1980.

I joined a reserve unit called the 100th Division MTC which was stationed out of Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a Maneuver Training Command. It was a fun unit! It was kind of interesting and it was basically one of the main ways I paid for seminary because I was able to drill. I was an active reservist, a drilling reservist. So I drilled two days a week and they paid me for my drills and then I had two weeks of summer camp. Because of the nature of the unit, I probably got an additional 30 to 40, sometimes as many as 50 days of active duty for training a year on top of that.

So it’s the main way I paid for seminary. So I sort of paid my way through seminary working as a warrior because I was an Armor Officer, not a chaplain. I was a no kidding Armor Officer and that’s the way I worked through seminary. I was at seminary for three years. All this time I was toying with the idea of being a military chaplain, but at the same time I thoroughly enjoyed church work.

I thoroughly enjoyed the local church and all that was involved around it. I really wasn’t sure! I hadn’t made up my mind that the military was the direction I was going, but that’s pretty much the direction. Any number of points in time my career could have gone in a different direction.

Zarbock: Clarify for me, while you’re in seminary, it was required as part of the curriculum that you also serve in some capacity in a church?

Quarles: Not at that particular point. I had to do three months, and again this is how it all starts to fit together, I had to do one semester of a placement somewhere, supervised placement, supervised ministry. So I got involved in a program called CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education, but most folks do CPE at hospitals. That’s where CPE tends to happen.

I ended up going to a CPE Unit at the Luther Lockett Correctional Complex for the Criminally Insane right there in Louisville, Kentucky. It was built for…Luther Lockett was originally built to house and deal with people who were labeled criminally insane, but over the years, it had developed a little further to where it was a medium security institution.

Zarbock: Well there you are.

Quarles: And so there I was and I did CPE. Here again I was working with incarcerated men primarily. That’s a fascinating experience in and of itself. I worked there, did one unit of CPE there and then went back and volunteered for counseling class I was taking and did some volunteer work. All the while I was working with the Boy Scouts in Kentucky and I was still doing my reserve work in Kentucky. I finished up and graduated in December of 1982.

Zarbock: You’re still in the Army?.

Quarles: I was still in the Army.

Zarbock: By the way, are you married at this time?

Quarles: No. I was quite single at the time, which kind of adds some things to the story because I hadn’t served in a church. I wasn’t serving in a church. I was not married and to be a Baptist preacher and having never served in a church and not being married, you’re going to have a hard time getting a job!

So I graduated and didn't have a job, which is about par for the course. I went home in December and then was looking for a job and was interviewing and doing all that kind of stuff and didn't really have a job January, February, March, April and May. I was doing reserve work at the time and bringing in a little money and living with my mom and dad. They didn't have a problem with this. I don’t think they did.

Got a friend of mine who I met back in the Army, he had just graduated with his Master’s in Archeology and had a job working on an archeological site down in Nogales right there on the Arizona - Mexico border. Right there in a little border town, not so little anymore. He had a job down there excavating a _____ site. So he invited me to come down so I spent the summer in the Arizona desert digging, working on an archeological site.

Zarbock: As a volunteer?

Quarles: As a volunteer. Had a good time though. Part way through that, I went to Fort Carson, Colorado and did two weeks reserve work, as well there which helped to pay bills a little bit. Anyway about that time I got a phone call from a church in Willacoochee, Georgia which is in deep South Georgia. It’s not too far from Way Cross and Okefenokee Swamp. It was in Atkinson County. There were more alligators than people in the County.

It was a fascinating town. Anyway I was the pastor at the First Baptist Church of Willacoochee, Georgia. Most of my people were farmers, one or two retired school teachers. It was a fascinating town. Anyway I was there for almost three years and really got a chance to learn the art of pasturing from those people because…

Zarbock: Was this a small rural church?

Quarles: It was the church that was in the town, but the town had probably no more than 1200 people in it at the time. It was a little town. Just about all my people lived out of town. They were hog farmers, I had some dairy farmers. I had some tobacco farmers. Then I had some merchants that lived in the town that were members of the church. The guy who ran the pharmacy, the drug store there in town. He was a member of the church.

He had one of those old-fashioned soda fountains that you go sit at.

Anyway about that time I started dating the woman who was going to be my wife. Now this is kind of interesting, but she and I had met when I was back in college and we had known each other for 12-13 years by the time we got married. We started dating at about the 10 year mark from when he met each other, but had been close friends and then were married two years later.

Zarbock: She was living in this small town?

Quarles: No. She wasn’t living in the small town. You don’t have enough tape to even begin to go into this story. It’s kind of interesting though because it has an impact. My wife went to Emory, which is a Methodist seminary, and she was an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and I was the pastor of the Southern Baptist Church and an ordained minister in the Baptist church. Anyway we ended up getting married in the spring of 1986.

Zarbock: In the Methodist church?

Quarles: Well we got married in the Methodist church in Summerville, South Carolina, by her Senior Minister, a fellow by the name of Bill Kennett and the guy who had been my pastor all through college, a fellow by the name of Joe Emery, did the wedding.

Prior to that I had been, this will give you a hint of how I ended up in the Navy rather than the Army, I called an Army Recruiter just to talk with him and he basically said, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you. We have more Southern Baptists than we know what to do with!” Now a good friend of mine by the name of David Gear, who had been in high school with me and he and I were Boy Scouts together, I was down visiting him in Charleston.

He had graduated from Georgia Tech and he was either the Operations Officer or the Chief Engineer on a nuclear powered sub that was in Charleston. This was when the Charleston Navy Base was still open. He introduced me to the Squadron Chaplain who in turn introduced me to the recruiter, the Navy recruiter. The Navy says, “ Come on in!”

So I got commissioned as a Navy chaplain in August of ’84. I surrendered my Army commission on one day and was commissioned the next day in the Navy. I lived in Willahoochie, because the pay was not all that good. I think I was making $12,000 a year as a Navy Chaplain Reservist.

Anyway when my wife and I got married in ’86, it was very obvious that we could not be husband and wife and her work in the Methodist parsonage and me work in the Baptist parsonage. This would cause problems. So I went on active duty at that particular point and was sent to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines at Camp Pendleton, California and got there in 1986.

Zarbock: Your rank is?

Quarles: At his particular point in time I was a Lieutenant, which is an 03 in Army, or just general military, the equivalency of a Captain in the Army. Anyway I got there and was a chaplain for the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines which is an Artillery Battalion and ended up staying with them for the full three years which is kind of unusual. We spent a lot of time at a place called 29 Palms.

By the time I left 29 Palms, I could pretty much get around that place without a map. I knew where I was and knew that place a lot. Went from there to a ship called the USS Arkansas, CGN-41. That’s it right there, up there. Got to her in June of ’89. Arkansas turned out to be an absolutely fascinating tour. I don’t think it was as much fun as the Marines from my perspective, because I was an Army officer so I understood the Marines.

The first time I got into a Marine situation, I looked and said, “Yeah, been here, done this. I understand what they’re talking about.” Now there’s a difference between the Army and the Marine Corps, make no mistake, but the basic organization, the basic structure, the basic focus on field living was there. So I was able to do that pretty well. I had a good grasp of that. I knew how to read a map. I knew how to stay clean in the field. I was comfortable in the field. So 29 Palms was, while challenging, was not overwhelming and all that daunting because I understood it.

I understood the folks I was working with. I thoroughly enjoyed the Marines at that particular tour. Anyway, went to Arkansas, I met up with the Arkansas in Bremerton. She was in the Yards there undergoing an overhaul. I flew in and it was dark. I flew into the SeaTac Airport and they put me on the car and picked me up and drove me back to the ship. I remember walking in and seeing just what a beautiful ship she was, as I rounded the corner because Arkansas was a pretty ship.

She was a nuclear cruiser and she looked like a warship. The ages class folks would kill me, but I’m still convinced that thing looks like a shoebox, it’s an ugly ship in my mind, capable, but I don’t like it. But Arkansas was pretty! She looked like a warship. Got on her and I was on her for two and a half years. A lot of interesting experiences on the Arkansas.

She was the ship I went to the Gulf in. We didn't actually participate in the Gulf War, but we were there during the mine laying operations. You could pretty much tell when Sadaam had done something dumb, because you’d feel the ship pick up speed in the middle of the night and turn around.

Zarbock: What were your duties on board?

Quarles: I was Ship’s Chaplain. I did a little bit of everything, a lot of counseling, a lot of worship services, bible studies. I edited the ship’s newsletter. I was the Family Readiness Officer.

Zarbock: What does that mean, Family Readiness?

Quarles: It means if the wives had problems, I was the one that dealt with it. I had a file folder from that deployment that was in my desk, that had to have been at least six inches thick with Red Cross messages that I would answer the mail on and get sailors to do the right thing or tell wives just to calm down, this is what we’re doing. I had to do everything from telling sailors that they were daddies, to tell sailors that they were now orphans, that moms and dads had died. The children were sick. I would sit down and listen, a lot of listening.

Zarbock: How would you handle the situation with this little role playing? I come in, you call me into the office. I come in, I sit down, I’m relatively in a pleasant mood, I like what I’m doing. And you tell me there’s a terrible accident, and one of my children is in the hospital and is not in very good shape. Okay, if this is not a precise situation that occurred in your life, it may have a parallel. What do you do at that time?

Quarles: The first thing you do is just telling them you’ve got some bad news. Then what I would normally do, because it would come in the form of a Red Cross message, is I’d let them read the Red Cross message. That way they could see the words of whoever was sending the message. Ideally by this particular point in time, I’d already talked with the command structure so the wheels were starting to do what we needed to do.

I could either say, “Look, we’re pulling in. This is what I can do, these are the tentative plans we’ve got made for you to get you home,” or if not, just listen to them. You tell them and then you just sit quietly and are with them because there’s not really any way you can fix it. You just listen and let them talk. Then ask them questions in such a way that they know you’re paying attention to them.

Zarbock: Did you have telephone communication capability or anything like that? Could you call from ship to Dayton, Ohio?

Quarles: No, this was before cell phones and Internet and all this other good stuff. If we were at sea, we were at sea and the best you could do would be to send a Red Cross message saying, “ service members informed. We will be in port on this particular day. Family should be able to make contact with family at this particular point in time.” Then you just sit and listen, cause that’s really all you can do because there’s no way you can make it better. There’s no way you can take away the pain, but you just listen to them. You just listen.

Zarbock: But there is that phenomenon called Active Listening and I think you put your finger on it. If you make a reflective remark to the individual, that demonstrates conclusively, “I’ve been listening to every word you said…”

Quarles: And to a large extent, that’s really the trick of chaplainry. It’s just active listening. You’ve got to listen and you’ve got to ask questions that let them know you’re paying attention. Now chaplaincy in a military setting is kind of different. One of the things they’ll teach you is that you can’t fix things! In a military setting in a lot of cases, you can do something because, like in one particular setting, I can’t fix it, but I can get you home. I know how to get you home, and I know the procedures for getting you home.

Now most line officers and chiefs and petty officers have got some vague idea of how to do it, but they really don’t understand it because they might do it once. Say on a cruise they may have one or two sailors in their department that do it, but as a ship’s chaplain, I would be dealing with folks from every single department all the time so I knew what to do. I knew the right questions to ask, I knew the right directions to point people.

Zarbock: What were the number of sailors on a ship?

Quarles: Normally we had about 550, but when we were actually deployed, we deployed with about 600.

Zarbock: Officers and men?

Quarles: Officers and men.

Zarbock: Did you have any funerals?

Quarles: Nobody died on board my ship while we were at sea. We used to do burials at sea. Veterans would die and they would request that their ashes me interned at sea. In some cases, whole bodies would go. Most of the time I would get cremations and the request would be to do a ceremony and empty them at sea. Those were always challenging.

Now that I think about it, I did do one funeral, but it wasn’t involving a ship’s company. We were coming into Perth, Australia, of all places, and as we were coming in, we got a message that a master chief, I think it was a master chief, had died. He was a World War II retiree. He met an Australian girl, married her and stayed in Australia. They were trying to get him back to bury him before he died, but they didn't make it. He died. So we got a message asking if I would be willing to do the funeral and do military honors?

I bounced it off the Executive Officer and he said, “Yeah, be glad to do it.” Went to the ship’s company and we got an honor guard and they contacted the Royal Australian Navy Reserves and they got us a bugle player to do Taps. We practiced folding the flag and lifting it off the casket and doing all this other good stuff. Got to the funeral, got to the gravesite where we were actually going to do the funeral.

Zarbock: Oh, he was not going to be taken out to sea?

Quarles: No, no, we were going to be doing this on land. So we got to the gravesite. In the United States, you’ve got these rather elaborate frames that you put over the grave and you put the casket on this elaborate frame and you crank him down. Generally that happens after everybody leaves. You say the funeral, everybody goes away, they lower him down and bury him and you go on about your business. And that’s what I practiced planning to do.

We show up to the grave and there’s three metal bars across the grave and ropes. So our guys were expected to lower the casket down into the grave. We had not practiced for this. It was kind of interesting, having to back up and say, “Okay, let’s recalibrate.” My guys did a great job, but that was an interesting experience because we were dealing with the funeral customs of two different Navy’s of two different countries. At the same time, we were honored and privileged to do that.

The other highlight in that thing is Mt. Pinatubo blew while we were there. It was a volcano that blew in the Philippines on Subic. It shut down Clark Air Base and just beat the devil out of Subic, but we were in port when that thing blew. A typhoon came through at the exact same time that thing was blowing so you had Pinatubo erupting, typhoon coming through, the ash coming down and it was raining mud.

The ship was covered with this stuff. We could not get it off fast enough. The ship was actually sinking under the weight of this stuff and for about two days this thing erupted and we just sat there. It was pitch black dark! I went up to the bridge at noon one day in the Philippines and it was pitch black dark.

Zarbock: Did anybody ask you to interpret this business of fire and water at the same time?

Quarles: No, no, no.

Zarbock: It sounds biblical to me.

Quarles: It was extremely biblical. Anyway it finished up, it stopped and we did evacuations. We evacuated folks and so the nuclear cruiser is not a ship. We’re not designed to carry passengers. We’ve got just enough room for what we’ve got and that’s not much, but we ended up carrying about 300 or 400 people out. We crammed about 300-400 people on that ship.

Zarbock: Americans?

Quarles: Americans. It may have been between 200 and 300 dependents and service personnel, 15 dogs and 2 birds.

Zarbock: You’re taking them from where to where?

Quarles: We took them from Subic to a place called Sabu Island where military transports were going to fly in and we were the first ship out of Subic Bay. Now, later on they brought in some big amphibious, off loaded the Marines that were on them and were ready to really start hauling people out of there. But we made two runs back and forth to evacuate people from Subic. At the same time we were cleaning up the ship because the ship was under like 4 feet of volcanic ash so we were cleaning and driving all at the same time to get back.

So anyway, we went from Subic to the Gulf, were in the Gulf, did our business in the Gulf. Like I said, we were not actually involved in the conflict, but we were there defending the mine sweeps that had come through and were clearing out the waters that were around Kuwait. That was our primary function. Anyway that’s what we were doing there. That’s when we went through Australia on the way back there.

We came back. This was kind of an interesting situation. My wife, up until this point, had been able to…well just prior to deploying I had made up my mind that my wife and I decided that she was going to be a minister. It was time for her to get back and she was going back to South Carolina,which is where she was from, and she was going to take a church.

If she got a church that was close to either Charleston or Buford, that was good and if I got orders to either Charleston or Buford, that was good. If I didn't get orders to Charleston or Buford and/or she didn't get a church that was close to Charleston or Buford, I wouldn’t stay in the Navy. I didn't tell the Detailer this. This was just the decision we made. We weren’t going to tell anybody anything. That’s just the way it was going to work out.

So this is where you think God has got an interesting sense of humor. The first offer my wife got for a church was right outside of Columbia, South Carolina, not anywhere near Charleston or Buford, South Carolina so, “ Roger that.” In goes the resignation, I’m out of the canoe club. We’ll figure out what to do next.

Well that got short-circuited for some reason and my wife was sent to a church right outside of a little town called Bowman, South Carolina. Bowman is 40 miles away from Charleston and 70 miles away from Buford and the Detailer gave me orders to Buford, South Carolina. So 70 miles, is that within reach or not? Is that a reasonable drive or is it not a reasonable drive? What do you do?

I took the orders to Buford and I was a chaplain at Parris Island, which is a Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Buford, South Carolina. I was there for about 3-1/2 years. That was probably, you know I can’t say it was the most fun because every duty station I’ve had has had its own…

Zarbock: Well let me ask you something? Geographically, you’re separated by 70 miles. How often did you make that 140 mile trip?

Quarles: I had a BOQ room at Parris Island.

Zarbock: That’s Bachelor’s Officer’s Quarters?

Quarles: Bachelor Officer’s Quarters, and I stayed there on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I needed to be at work at 6:00 in the morning so I would get up at 4:00, I would leave the house at 4:30 and I’d get to work about 6:00. On Monday nights, I generally left between 5:00 and 6:00 in the evening to get back, so I’d get home.

Then Tuesday nights, I would spend the night there and then go home Wednesday evening, spend Thursday night at the BOQ and then go home Friday and stay home Friday and Saturday except about every two months I had Duty and when I had Duty, I’d just stay on the Island for the entire week.

Zarbock: What would you do on Sunday? Where would you be?

Quarles: At Parris Island. I’d get up in the morning and go back to Parris Island to do worship services and a lot of that depended. On a Marine Corps ecruit Depot, at least back in the early 90’s, you had the Recruit Training Regiment, that was at Parris Island in our case four Infantry, four Recruit Training Battalions and then you have the support staff. You had the Regiment and then you had what they called Headquarters Battalion. I was the Headquarters Battalion Chaplain for about a year.

That basically meant I worked with the permanent personnel more than anything else. That was, I dealt with all kinds of sad stuff with that.

Zarbock: Like what sad stuff?

Quarles: Oh, I had a young man who committed suicide in front of about seven of his peers. That was a remarkably sad thing. Then I spent another two and a half years actually down in what we called in the trenches with the recruits. Now a recruit minister is a lot of fun, a lot of fun.

I was running with the recruits just about every day, going to the gas chamber with them, running the obstacle course with them, going out and staying in the field with them and just listening to them.

Zarbock: At the time of the suicide, was that your duty and obligation to call the family?

Quarles: Well the Marine Corps, in fact all the services have a very responsible concept where they have a Casualty Assistance Officer. He, by law and regulation, must be a line officer. The Marines take this extremely seriously. It is the responsibility of the Commanding Officer to deliver the sad news. The chaplain would go along as support. Sometimes you’d end up supporting both the Commanding Officer and the family, and that’s what I did.

I didn't have to go deliver the bad news, but I did go with the Commanding Officer when he delivered the very sad and difficult news to the family of this untimely incident.

Zarbock: That raises a question too. The other chaplains whom I’ve interviewed, I usually ask two or three questions. I’ll get to one of them right now. Who was your chaplain? You know a chaplain has got a stressful position. People come to the chaplain with grievances, heartaches, difficulties of one sort or another. Well after awhile that accumulates. Who chaplained you as a chaplain?

Quarles: There was a good friend at Parris Island. He was another chaplain and he and I lived together four days out of five. He was a friend. If I had any failing in my ministry as a chaplain, it was that I didn't really have a chaplain. If I made a mistake as a chaplain it’s that I did not develop my peers and my relationship with my peers or develop a mentoring relationship with somebody. I’m not sure why that is?

That’s probably one of the sad points, the low points in my chaplaincy career. Not that there weren’t senior chaplains that tried to provide ministry to me, but I wouldn’t let them. I don’t know why that is and I’m still working at that myself.

Zarbock: Another question I’ve asked of all of the chaplains. Was there ever a situation in which you were ordered or strongly suggested, hinted broadly or a subtly informed request that you do something that was in violation of your personal ethic, your religious beliefs?

Quarles: That was very serious! No! I have never been challenged that particular way. When I was at Parris Island, there was a circumstance developed where the Commanding Officer that I was going to go work for, was not too happy with the chaplain he had at the time. I didn't know I was going to that particular Battalion. But I found out, one particular day, when I went into talk with the Commanding Officer and he said, “Duke, I want you to go into his office. I want you to pack up the office and put all his stuff in a box out by the door”.

(Laughter) “Boss, sir, I can’t do that!” Fortunately, the Executive Officer was behind me shaking his head saying, “No sir, he can’t do that”. But no. I’ve been extremely lucky

in my relationships with all of my Commanding Officers. Either they have been men of faith or they’ve had a very clear idea of what a chaplain can do and what a chaplain cannot do and have never asked me.

There was one case where I had a Battalion Commander who we had some problems with some communications gear. Some control materials that had to do with communications security. CMS, yeah, the guy was a CMS custodian. We’d had some problems…

Zarbock: CMS stands for?

Quarles: Classified materials or something like that. The CMS custodian had had some problems. There were no major violations, but it was obvious the records weren’t being kept quite as tight as they should have been. The Colonel called me in and said, “Duke, I want you to be the CMS custodian”. The chaplain can’t be the CMS custodian. That is a major no-no. I told him, “ I couldn’t do that,” and he said, “I could, that I was a Lieutenant, wasn’t I.?”

I said, “ Yes sir.” He said, “ Then I could do it, that I met all the requirements,” and I’m saying, “ No, I can’t!” Fortunately that was another case where the Executive Officer came in and said, “No sir, he can’t do that”. If I had a problem with that kind of stuff, it hadn’t been on the moral areas as much as it was professional areas. I was a line officer.

Zarbock: That sounds almost like impulsivity.

Quarles: Yeah, but I was a line officer. I could think like a line officer, I could function like a line officer. I understood the environment and I was a fairly responsible officer, therefore, “ give this duty to Duke!” It was, “ Give the duty to Duke!” not, “Give the duty to the chaplain.” Every so often, folks would just have to say, “ No, sir, can’t do that. He’s a chaplain.” That happened on Arkansas, that happened at Parris Island, that happened at Pendleton.

Anyway we finished up at Parris Island. A lot of stories about Parris Island. You could go on forever about Parris Island and what was going on there. It was a lot of fun, but I was tired. Our first child was born there. My wife was the pastor of an absolutely wonderful, wonderful community back in South Carolina that we’re still in close contact with a lot of people down there. A lot of stories about South Carolina and that church and living in the parsonage and at the same time working at Parris Island.

But we finished up there and got orders to Singapore. I was the second chaplain there and that was a fascinating tour. We literally lived in Singapore. We lived in old officer housing. We lived on a portion of what was the Old British Navy Base and had office space down there. That was a fascinating job because I was the chapel pastor. I had a chapel that was built by the Brits, a beautiful little chapel.

I was the only military chaplain on the island. The Singapore military did not have a chaplain. For one thing, everything lives on the island so there’s no real need to develop a chaplaincy because the Singapore military never went anywhere. They just stayed on Singapore. That was their job, to protect themselves from Singapore.

In our housing area or office blocks and everything, there were Australian military, New Zealand military and British military and American military. We had an Air Force unit and two Navy commands as well as some Marines, as well as some Army officers and we all lived in this community and I was the chaplain for this community.

So I was a chapel pastor which meant I had a full chapel program consolidated and provided for the Catholic program as well, hired the contract priest, organist, supplies. We did vacation bible schools. We did Sunday school, we did Bible studies. We did community functions and Thanksgiving meals, Christmas services, Thanksgiving services, everything you would expect of a local church.

We had everybody from every service, Australians, New Zealanders, Brits, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, civilians. A lot of Americans who lived in Singapore started coming to our services especially the ones that lived on the north side of the island which is where we were because of the bulk of the American community lived in central Singapore or south Singapore which was down near the main port area.

At the same time, I was also on the staff and ships would come through because all the ships going to the Gulf would stop in Singapore for a port visit. So we could count on two ARG’s which is Amphibious Readiness Group which is a bunch of amphibian ships filled with Marines coming through. We could count on two of those coming through a year and we could count on two carrier battle groups coming through a year.

So I set up community relations projects in Singapore for all those ships. When they would come through, I would set up as many as four or five different community relations projects, one right after the other.

Zarbock: For the purpose of this tape, what are you talking about community projects?

Quarles: Community relations projects, like a ship would come into town and a group of sailors would go out and do something helpful for the local community. We had a boys’ home in town that we would always take a group of sailors out to and they would repair buildings, paint buildings, build things. We did work at an orphans’ home. We did work at a home for abused children. We had one place that was a School for the Blind that we would do work at, volunteer type stuff. We did it all over the island.

Zarbock: How would you get the volunteers off a ship? You’re on shore.

Quarles: But see, the thing is, it wasn’t actually my project. You’d always have a ship’s chaplain or somebody on board a ship who would want to do something like that. You always had groups of sailors who wanted to do this. My job was to provide for it. Now if they came back and said, “Don’t want to do a community relations project. Roger that. No community relations project for you.” But if they came back and said, “ We want to do a community relations project,” I set it up. It wasn’t my project. It was their project.

At the same time I would invite all the chaplains out of the battle group and we would feed them. So we always had a meal at my house or went out to one of the local Singapore restaurants and ate. I had washing machines so I would always invite the chaplains over to my house to wash their clothes and maybe call home and do it in a little more private environment than down on the pier with 3000 of their closest friends.

So I did that and then just provided ministry and support to the other folks in Singapore. That was a lot of fun. Then we went from there and I got involved in a program called CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education which has probably been one of the most life changing events I’ve been involved in, in my life and got a chance to just sit down and really fine tune my counseling skills, my listening skills and learn how to provide ministry in a hospital and clinical environment.

It was amazing that I learned in a clinical environment to do the things I’d been doing instinctively in terms of ministry.

Zarbock: Where did you take this training?

Quarles: At Portsmouth Medical Center at Portsmouth, Virginia. I was there for about a year. That was where I found out I had been passed over for a Commander promotion the first time. That was a scary time because the first time I was passed over, we were at a point in the Chaplain Corps history to where if you got passed over twice for Commander, you had to get out.

Because I was in the residency program and not actively involved in ministry, the chances for me getting selected the second go round were not very good. So I was fully expecting to have to get out of the Navy rather quickly after finishing CPE. As it turns out, and you know it’s way above my pay grade, but something was going on at that particular point in time to where they decided they didn't have enough chaplains on active duty to fill the billets they had available. So I got told I could stay on active duty.

Zarbock: How long had you been in service now?

Quarles: By this point in time, I’d been in service at least 13 years. I was falling into that window where they were going to let me stay on active duty until I made my 20. But see, the first time I got passed over, I didn't know this was happening. All this stuff came about. In between these two looks, and I was passed over that second go round, they gave me orders to 2nd Marine Division which is probably a good place to send me because if I’d gotten passed over the second time, there were a lot of chaplains down here at Camp Lejeune. It would have been fairly easy to move me out and it wouldn’t have that big of an impact.

As it was getting passed over probably turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me because if I’d been selected on time, I’m fairly convinced I wouldn’t have come back to Camp Lejeune and I wouldn’t have gone here and gotten the jobs I got here.

When I got here, the Command Chaplain didn't know quite what to do with me. The Division Chaplain didn't know quite what to do with me. I was very, very senior Lieutenant Commander at the time passed over twice by this point. He really couldn’t see putting me in a Navy Battalion though that’s what it was looking like. He told me he was going to put me in an Artillery Battalion.

Well by the time I got down here, things had shifted enough and they sent me to 2nd Tracks, 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion. It’s one of the largest Battalions in the Marine Corps. It’s got about 1100 people in it on the books. It’s a huge Battalion. It was absolutely fascinating that the skills I had learned in terms of counseling, just how well used they were at the Battalion.

So I was there for about a year having a lot of fun, doing a lot of counseling when the opportunity came for me to go to 2nd Marines Regiment as a Regimental Chaplain which is really the highlight of my time with the Regiment. I got a chance to work with two really great officers, two great Commanding Officers. A fellow by the name of Colonel Jerry Durant and a fellow by the name of Colonel Ron Bailey. Both of them outstanding officers.

Did two summer _____ which is 29 Palms in the summer. Spent July, August and September, two years running. Spent January and February, two years at Bridgeport in winter warfare training living in the snow, ministering to my sailors and recruits. In a very real sense, I was in my element. My boy scouting career paid off tremendous dividends here, because I knew how to live and function in the field and I liked it. Living in the snow in tents and driving around 29 Palms in the desert and going out and doing field services.

I mean I’ve done everything from field services in the Mojave Desert in 110 degrees to field services at Bridgeport in snow 16 below. That was a lot of fun. I got to go with the Regiment to Norway. Then I ended up here at the hospital. I would have to say, without a doubt, the hospital has probably been the most challenging physically, spiritually and mentally of all my jobs.

You deal with the occasional crisis in the Regiment, Battalions in the ship, but here you’re dealing with it all the time, day in and day out. The hospital is always filled with the sick and injured and hurting people. You’re dealing with people at crisis moments in their lives all the time. It really puts your faith and your ability to listen and to help people walk through times of sadness and suffering to a real test all the time.

Zarbock: Building upon that eloquently delivered remark, as I said off camera you’ll never be a day older than you are today as a function of the video tape and humidity control and temperature control vaults where one of these tapes will be held. I ask you to look right in the camera’s eye and address yourself to your children and grandchildren and reflect. What has all of your experience, how would you sum it up?

What’s it meant to Duke?

Quarles: The joy of life is to be found in your relationship with God and how it expresses itself in its relationship with people because people are what make life worth living. They can be challenging, they can be aggravating like I can, but it’s in relating with people in their good times, in their sad times, in their happy times. It’s being there with people day in and day out and being where you’re at and living where you’re at that make life worthwhile.

If you get too wrapped up in what has been or what might be, you’ll lose the joy of the moment. There’s sadness in a lot of the moments and there’s joy in a lot of the moments, but it all makes for a much more richer life when you look for God in the lives of the people around you in the moment and the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Zarbock: Thank you Chaplain, may the Lord be with you.

Quarles: And with you, my friend.

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