WAXHAW – Chaplain Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver served his country for more than 38 years and continues to do so now, even after setting aside the nation’s uniform.
Carver, of Waxhaw, spoke during the Nov. 2 program of the Charlotte Dilworth South End Rotary Club. Carver said he was asked to speak about the importance of faith on the battlefield for United States service members.
“I used a text from the Bible that is often used as we honor our fallen, but is also a life lesson – John 15:13 ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,’” Carver said. “I talked about the faith of our troops that I’ve seen over the past 12 years and over my entire career, the courage of our troops, the cost that comes with making that kind of decision to serve our country and other people’s needs.”
More than 6,600 service members have died in the 12 years of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Carver said.
“There’s always a cost for our freedom,” he said. “More than 88,000 are missing from all of our (nation’s) wars and over 1 million have died. Hundreds of thousands suffer from invisible wounds.”
Carver said Americans should be grateful for the all-volunteer military, the 1 percent of citizens who represent millions of others.
“I was amazed to sit in a room well over half full of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Desert War,” he said. “It’s our young men and women, primarily the 18 to 24 year olds of every generation, who sacrifice so much.”
After a storied military career, Carver has settled with his wife in Waxhaw to be near one of his daughters and his grandchildren. His second daughter and a few more grandchildren live in Augusta, Ga. – Carver’s home state.
“It seemed to be a good area; I had been here a few times and the people are very friendly and it’s a beautiful place,” he said of his new home in Union County. “The people here have amazing faith and it’s a very patriotic town. The efforts they are making to support our troops in their transition home are admirable.”
Carver said his rise to the position of Chief of Army Chaplains and Army major general was “by the grace of God.”
“There’s no predictive factors of rising to any rank,” he said. “It’s just taking care of people, the troops and their families. It’s being willing to serve the needs of others. It’s all just hard work and the grace of God. It certainly wasn’t on my bucket list to be a major general. It’s very hard, but when the nation asks you to do it, you submit to that calling.”
After six years of service, Carver became a reservist while he attended seminary. In 1984, he returned to active duty and rose to the rank Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army, the first Southern Baptist to be promoted to the position in 50 years.
The most rewarding part of his prestigious career has been “the opportunity to go to work every day with heroes.
“To be around highly professional, super competent, intelligent, hard working, dedicated men and women, our national treasure, the men and women who wear the national cloth, has been the highlight of my adult life,” Carver said. “As a chaplain, having the ability to care for, pastor, pray over and honor these servants of our nation and to have the opportunity to walk with our nation’s heroes and to serve their religious and spiritual needs was very rewarding every day.”
Carver said the service was in his blood.
“I come from a very patriotic family and the natural thing to do is to serve your country as my father and others did in previous wars,” he said.
Carver was in college at the University of Tennessee during the Vietnam War and knew he would likely go to war, so he signed up for ROTC. He was a distinguished military graduate and began his military career as an artillery officer.
Moving from military service to the chaplaincy was inspired by two people, Carver said.
“I had always felt a calling to the ministry even as a child, and I intended to preach after I left the service, but a pastor once told me ‘Don’t give God the leftovers,” and that really inspired me,” he said. “And an Air Force chaplain took me to lunch once and told me that ‘We need chaplains to go where the church cannot.’”
Carver is now serving as executive director of chaplaincy services for the North American Mission Board, which provides professional and pastoral support to more than 3,900 Southern Baptist chaplains, more than 72 different types.
“What I’m doing is ensuring that we take care of our chaplains who serve as an extension of the church, especially our military chaplains, to help them stay strong,” he said. “And to educate and engage our churches in the importance of the ministry of the chaplaincy.”
Carver was inspired by his time in the service as a chaplain, especially in tours of duty in combat zones over the past 12 years.
“I was truly surprised by the interest regarding religion and spirituality of our troops in combat – it really amazed me,” he said. “Maintaining a moral high ground and doing the right thing in a chaotic environment like combat is amazing, and it’s faith that makes that possible, that helps them do the right thing. Watching combat proved to me that faith does make a difference.”
Carver has been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the
National Defense Service Medal, among others.