FORT MYER, Va. (BP)–Doug Carver remembers the day he held a pair of bloody dog tags in his hand. That same hand recently rested on the Bible his wife Sunny gave him for college graduation as he was sworn in as the 23rd U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains.
Carver was promoted to major general during ceremonies at Fort Myer, Va., on July 12. He is the first Southern Baptist to hold the position of chief of chaplains since Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Ivan L. Bennett held the post in 1954.
“The selection of Maj. Gen. Carver to be the chief of chaplains for the U.S. Army is an historic event for Southern Baptists,” said Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, which endorses Southern Baptist chaplains. “We are grateful to the Lord that the Army has recognized his outstanding qualities as a leader and the spiritual support that he has provided to our troops and their families.
Carver said God has called him to serve the needs of soldiers and their families.
“I love our soldiers,” he said. “… We need God’s strength for the days ahead. We must provide support to our soldiers and their families.”
It is a chaplain’s duty, Carver said, to sustain and strengthen soldiers for another day in the combat zone, pray for them as they are assigned to one more convoy or take one more air mission, and comfort them as they look for hope and courage while facing death.
He recalled the day he watched helplessly as doctors and medics worked frantically to save the life of a soldier. “What can I do? How can I serve this man who is dying?” Carver remembers asking himself.
“Here chaplain,” was all the medic said when he put the dog tags in Carver’s hand. At that moment, Carver knew what he had to do: He had to help this soldier prepare, perhaps, to face eternity.
“Southern Baptist chaplains have always been the largest religious denomination in the military,” said Keith Travis, director of chaplaincy evangelism at the North American Mission Board and a retired Army chaplain. “It is only fitting that God would appoint a Southern Baptist to be the chief of chaplains for the Army.
“During the global war on terrorism when our soldiers are pushed to the limit, they look to the chaplain to provide spiritual care,” Travis continued. “Our chaplains need a leader like Doug Carver who can provide strong leadership as they fulfill God’s call on their lives.”
Carver’s mother, Evelyn, named him after General Douglas MacArthur, and Georgia Baptist preacher Forest Lanier. “Mom was … prophetic,” said Carver, whose middle name is Lanier.
Carver accepted Christ as his Savior at 11 during a revival service at his home church, Dykes Creek Baptist Church in Rome, Ga. And it was there he first learned of military chaplaincy.
“One of our deacon’s sons was an Air Force chaplain,” Carver remembered. “Up to that point, I had always wanted to be a preacher. I was also fascinated by the military. So, becoming a chaplain was a perfect fit.”
Carver attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was a member of the ROTC Tennessee Honor Guard and a distinguished military graduate. Upon graduating in 1973, he joined the Army as a field artillery officer. After serving on active duty for six years, Carver resigned his commission to become a pastor. In June 1984 he was commissioned an Army chaplain.
His assignments included Operation Iraqi Freedom; deputy command chaplain for Europe; division chaplain for the 101st Airborne Division; and 22nd deputy chief of chaplains.
Floyd Carver, his father, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. One of his uncles also served in the Army, another in the Navy. His great-great-great grandfather, Moses Carver, served under Andrew Jackson in the so-called Florida wars, fought in the Civil War with the Georgia militia, and was an Indian War pensioner.
Moses acquired land near Canton, Ga., during the Georgia Land Lottery of 1838, but later moved to Rome, Ga., in 1850. Carver’s mother still lives there.
“She often sends [me] a jar of Georgia red clay when [I’m] homesick,” he said.
Doug and Sunny met at high school band camp in 1968 and were married in 1973. They have two daughters, Brooke and Laura, and two grandchildren -– with a third on the way.