MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Navy Capt. Steven D. Brown, 2nd Marine Division Chaplain, retired from 27 years of active duty service at the Camp Lejeune Protestant Chapel, Sept. 28.
Through an extensive military career, 31 years of marriage, being a parent to five children and more than 30 years devoted to learning and spreading Baptist ministry, Brown is a man very familiar with the meaning of service.
“Since I was a boy I have always wanted to serve my country,” said Brown, a Clawson, Mich. native. “I had an obligation to serve my country, but at the same time I also knew that God was calling me into some kind of full-time vocational ministry.”
Brown’s calling to service led him to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in the spring of 1980. After five years as an enlisted Marine and Cobra helicopter mechanic, Brown left the Reserves to serve as Associate Pastor for Grace Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla. It was his father-in-law, a Reserve Navy Chaplain himself, who cemented the idea within Brown to pursue his passion to serve in both capacities, though this time simultaneously.
“I thought for the longest time that these two callings were separate and that they could never intersect,” said Brown, “but when I learned more about the role of a military chaplain I knew it was what I should do.”
Brown then commissioned and joined the Navy Chaplain Corps in 1987, resuming a military career that would, over time, send Brown to 35 countries spread across five continents to share his ministry with service members stationed and deployed to locations worldwide.
“One of the most unique challenges to being a military chaplain is that we don’t typically pastor to a church,” said Brown.
“Operational ministry often calls us to visit the men and women at the tip of the spear, so your worship service might be in a beautiful chapel like the one here on base, but it might also be from the hood of a HMMWV or in the back of a (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle) MRAP.”
Retiring from a unit that has been actively engaged in conflict in Afghanistan, Brown cited his successes as Division Chaplain in large part due to the Division’s leaders.
“I’ve had great support from Maj. Gen. Toolan and Brig. Gen. Lukeman,” he said. “They love their Marines and they know that meeting the spiritual needs of their Marines is important, so they have really empowered our Chaplains to do that. I just wish I could have been able to spend more time with each of the chaplains in the Division.”
Throughout several deployments, three of which were in combat zones, Brown pushed to outlying locations to minister to Marines and sailors in need of spiritual counsel and returned home safely to continue his ongoing mission.
“I always knew that the same God who called me would grant me his grace and protect and empower me to take care of the men and women who were entrusted to my care,” said Brown. “And if God is who he says he is, then the only right response is for me to trust him.”
Brown will now go on to serve as the President and Endorser for Associated Gospel Churches, which currently endorses more than 120 active duty and reserve military chaplains.
“In God’s providence, this is the time for me to exit the military and continue to invest in the military by preparing the future generation of chaplains who are going to do what I have been blessed to do for the last 27 years,” he said.