"Nobody volunteers to go to the crossroads," said Stan Aufderheide, a retired chaplain and naval commander.
"God puts you there.And it's not a comfortable place to be."He
was talking of his
struggle for that commander pin.Aufderheide
, last stationed at Allied Forces Southern Europe in Naples, Italy, fought for four years because he
thought promotion boards failing to select him for commander were unfair.He
sported 15 years of glowing fitness reports.Aufderheide thought something was up: An evangelically minded minister with the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, he saw four chaplains with the arguably more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America receive promotion.
No chaplains of his
faith group did.
Eventually, then-Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig granted Aufderheide
two special promotion boards and by March 2000, the Navy made him a commander, complete with back pay.He
retired shortly after.
"I had four years of basically hell," Aufderheide
and Stripes recently from his
church in Portland, Ore. "It was a great travail to fight them.They ruined my name, the Chaplain Corps
said the military painted his
achievements and connections with leaders and celebrities as self-aggrandizement.Aufderheide
traveled on holidays to places such as Bosnia and Herzegovina or out to sea to bring troops morale-boosting visits from entertainers.This, he
said, caused collegial jealousy to turn to bile.
In the end, the pastor believed the Navy did the right thing in investigating his
case and promoting him.But he
also noted that it took federal investigations and help from the likes of Adm.
But by that time, chaplains across the globe, via the klaxon of e-mail, had heard of his
plight and Aufderheide
had accidentally sounded the horn of revolution.
"It's not me personally," Aufderheide
...When Aufderheide was a young lieutenant, a senior chaplain took him to lunch and explained that "90 percent of my time is spent getting chaplains out of trouble."Aufderheide
said shoplifting and adultery were commonplace.He
believes the Navy
let the Chaplain Corps
go its own way because the whole idea of managing a religious endeavor was alien to government.
"They had much discretion because nobody was overseeing them," Aufderheide
has nothing to do with any of the lawsuits, some consider the war in the Chaplain Corps his
"It was a political hot potato because of exactly what it led to," Aufderheide
said of his
case."So the Chaplain Corps
did everything it could to discredit me and make my claim illegitimate. ...The Chaplain Corps
put their whole weight behind fighting this."
said that he
own vindication and nothing more.His
life is now far removed from the swell and lurch of life at sea, the crush and sounding of Neapolitan traffic.And the crossroads, too, receded from view as Aufderheide
and family steered a new course toward leafy Oregon.
said, "is much more sedate."
But having spent four years at those crossroads, Aufderheide
predicted it will take steel and persistence for the suing evangelicals to see their war through.
"When you take on an institution like the Chaplain Corps
, you have to be obsessed," he
said, "or you'll never win."