According to the Council on Foreign Affairs, an estimated 1.3 million Americans serve in the U.S military currently–that is less than one percent of our nation’s population. A small minority representing the exemplary–a life defined by selflessness. In hearing the stories of PHM staff members Micki McCassey, Chaplain Charles “Chuck” Card, and the shared personal histories of CPE students Russell Magsanide, and Dameon Behlin, it is clear that certain undercurrents universally define their respective journeys. These commonalities are sacrifice, service, and faith in the ability to discover and achieve one’s life purpose through God’s wisdom. In honor of Military Appreciation Month, we highlight the narratives of these members of the armed forces. Although their service extends across different branches, their mission has always been to ensure the collective safety of us all–for that, we are eternally grateful.

To end up right where we are, as the person we are, requires a divine level of agency. It is a point stitched in time by destiny. It is in our everyday moments of tragedy and triumph that God reveals His plan for our lives. As the four of them respectively explain, their eventual undertaking of spiritual and public service was a sort of predetermined destiny; these tiny breadcrumbs of fate evident when they recall their paths leading to PHM. As Magsanide, who served in the Marine Corps, explains, his eventual transition was “God’s calling.”

From an early age, Magsanide found himself enamored by chaplaincy–a life defined by spiritual warfare. For him, the military was a means of achieving his dream of “becoming someone called upon to look after the souls and spiritual well-being of people.” During his time with the military, he served with an infantry battalion and, throughout his career, was notably one of the first units called to respond to the Rodney King riots in the ’80s. Working with light-armored vehicles and serving as an aircraft communications specialist, he explains that his life of service was essential to developing the skills pertinent to his CPE training. His uncanny ability to establish intimate connections with patients at Queen’s Medical Center can be attributed to what he describes as a level of authenticity that defines both the military and religious sectors–sentiments in which his colleague Dameon Behlin agrees.

Russell Magsanide pictured with his wife.

Russell Magsanide pictured with his wife.

Having enlisted in the Navy eight years prior as an operations specialist, Behlin currently serves Queen’s West while participating in the military’s SkillBridge program (an internship initiative that allows those transitioning out of the military to explore civilian careers of interest). Like Magsanide, he notes a powerful connection between the Navy and PHM that links these two worlds, emphasizing collectivism and family. In a particularly influential moment, Behlin recalls witnessing the moving interjection of a Chaplain who stood up for a struggling recruit during boot camp. It was at this moment that the pieces of his life began to come together. Having spent the entirety of his adolescence in the church, he explains, “I [always subconsciously] knew there was a calling over my life to do ministry.” Due to various deployments, it wouldn’t be until moving to Hawai’i that things would “come together,” and Behlin would embark on a life journey that was always in the making.

Dameon Behlin pictured aboard the USS San Jacinto (CG-56) preparing for shore duty in Hawai’i (2017)

Dameon Behlin pictured aboard the USS San Jacinto (CG-56) preparing for shore duty in Hawai’i (2017).

What unites the narratives of Micki McCassey and Chaplain Card is their respective military family histories. Micki, the product of two military parents, grew up as a “military brat”.  Spending most of her life growing up overseas, she knew around the age of thirteen that she wanted to follow in their footsteps. Upon completing high school in 1985, she enlisted in the Army, where she would have a career spanning over three decades. Throughout her life of service, she would become an officer in 1989, complete two combat tours in Iraq, and travel worldwide, including assignments in Korea and Germany, before officially retiring in 2016.  Having been friends with PHM’s founder, Rev. John Moody, who attended her retirement ceremony on the USS Missouri, he encouraged her to join the PHM family initially as an analyst and then became PHM’s Operations Manager.  A woman of faith herself, Micki takes pride in ensuring the business side of PHM runs smoothly so chaplains like Charles Card can bring about healing to the patients, family and staff members at the locations PHM serves.

Micki McCassey pictured with her husband, Everett.

Chaplain Charles Card, more endearingly known as Chuck, was born in Camp Zama in Japan. His father Lloyd Card’s history as an Army Chief Warrant Officer and his mother’s encouragement would profoundly influence his desire to enlist in the military. He would join the U.S. Army as a chaplain, remembering his mother’s insight regarding there being great opportunity as a military minister. For Chuck, serving in the Army would prove to be a worthwhile experience, allowing him the chance to provide spiritual support to soldiers, families, and civilians in Kuwait. On weekends, he also ran a youth program at the U.S. Embassy, leading spiritual retreats to nearby countries including Jordan, Oman and Dubai.

Chaplain Chuck Card pictured with his parents.
Chaplain Chuck Card pictured with his parents.

For Card, McCassey, Behlin, and Magnaside, PHM was a means of realizing subconscious and, at times, obscure dreams. While their faith propelled and fueled them, military service was the means of making change and having greater outreach, touching the lives of all those with whom they came in contact. It is safe to say that this tradition of influence has continued. In familiarizing ourselves with their stories, perhaps we may recognize how we have personally benefited from their sacrifice and dedication to country and service. On behalf of PHM and our community, we express our sincere appreciation for all the fantastic ways in which these individuals have enhanced the lives of those around them, creating a ricochet of change and possibility.