FAIRMONT - The Rev. John Meyer, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Trimont, served as a U.S. military chaplain over the past decade for two tours of duty - one in Afghanistan and one in Kuwait.
He shared his experiences Wednesday at Ingleside in Fairmont.
In Afghanistan from 2009-2010, Meyer was chaplain at forward-operating base Sharana, where he led church services, offered counseling, held remembrance services for fallen soldiers, and offered suicide prevention classes.
SERVING?SOLDIERS?— The Rev. John Meyer, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Trimont, talks about his time spent in war zones serving as a chaplain. He spoke Wednesday at Ingleside in Fairmont.
But flying all over the Middle East in a helicopter wasn't always the plan.
He first served in the military while enrolled in college, working as a medic, but he was never deployed.
After finishing seminary, he went on to become a pastor, shepherding congregations in Iowa.
Meyer said his job prevented him from rejoining as a reservist, as he believed weekend training was out of the question for a pastor.
But a move to a different area brought him near a Reserve office that allowed him to serve his weekends on Friday and Saturdays.
Meyer wanted to go back into the service for a simple reason:?He missed it.
On his most recent tour, in Afghanistan, he was with an engineering team responsible for building bridges, fixing roads and finding improvised-explosive devices.
During the year he served, the base grew from 2,500 people and 500 acres to 10,000 people and 4,500 acres. As overseer of all the religious activities on the base, Meyer was very busy.
There were seven regularly scheduled services during the week - mostly Jewish, Protestant and Catholic. If a serviceman needed another religion represented, Meyer was responsible for finding someone who could meet his or her needs.
Military chaplains are not allowed to carry weapons, but that didn't shield Meyer from violence. He traveled through dangerous country as he moved from base to base and held services for fallen soldiers.
He showed the audience slides of bomb wreckage and buildings destroyed.?He was asked how he could ever relax in that environment.
"When it is your time, it is your time," he said.
Returning home to rural services in a quiet Midwestern area was difficult for him.
"It was a culture shock," he said.
He doesn't know if he will be sent out again given the drawdown of troops in the Mideast, but U.S. troops could always be sent to other areas of the world.
Meyer is still involved with his unit, and goes to training once per month at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis.