Two Chaplains, One Family

This is a pretty cool article and it is local. My wife and I lived in Dallas for a year before moving to Fort Worth and my wife also worked at SMU for about a year and a half. I used the Perkins library on many occasions to research and write papers during the time we lived in Dallas. The full text of the article in the Dallas Morning News by Sherry Jacobson can be found here.

Below is the full text of the article:


Doretta Fortenberry and fiance Joshua Remy (above) hope to have joint careers as Army chaplains. Fortenberry earned her master of divinity degree from the Perkins School of Theology on Saturday.
Most soldiers do not go into a war zone and find a new career.

But Doretta Fortenberry did.

She was a recent graduate of Texas Tech University and headed toward a teaching career when she surprised her family and friends by joining the Texas National Guard in 2003.

When her unit deployed the following year, Fortenberry landed at an Army base in southern Iraq, working as a clerk for the brigade commander.

That’s when soldiers began reaching out to her for spiritual guidance, and Fortenberry recognized her calling to become an Army chaplain.

“I felt such peace and contentment doing it,” she said. “You just know it’s the right thing.”

On Saturday, she took an important step toward that goal when she was awarded a master of divinity degree, magna cum laude, from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

“It feels wonderful,” said Fortenberry, 32, as she joined her parents and other family members after commencement ceremonies at Highland Park United Methodist Church.

Her mother, Karen Fortenberry, said she was not surprised her daughter answered a religious calling.

“I saw this in her from the time she was a small child,” she said.

“It was just the way she was with people all her life.”

Fortenberry, who grew up in Woodville, Texas, about 250 miles southeast of Dallas, joined the military without consulting her family or close friends.

“I always played sports, including softball in junior college,” she said. “And I wanted to be part of a team that was bigger than sports, something that was more important than a game.”

Fortenberry found she loved the discipline and order of military life.

“The whole Army lifestyle works for some people,” she said.

She also embraces the adventurous side of the military because it allows young soldiers to open up about things that matter most to them – their fear of dying and their relationship to God.

“They start realizing they could die anytime they left the security of the base compound,” Fortenberry said about conversations she had with the troops. “They were trying to make sense of why they were there and what was going to happen if they died.

“They were struggling to make sense of God and why he would allow this war.”

Fortenberry gave them answers and often directed them to the brigade’s chaplain. Some of the soldiers began to call her the assistant chaplain.

“After six months in Iraq, I knew this was what I was being called to do,” she said.

But it wouldn’t be easy.

First, Fortenberry needed three years of seminary training, interspersed with two summers at Army chaplain school and two additional years of training before being ordained as a full elder in the United Methodist Church.

She plans to join the Army as a full-time chaplain after serving as the associate pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Pearland, a Houston suburb, for the next two years.

But some of that time will be spent planning her wedding.

She is engaged to another chaplain, Joshua Remy, 35, of Fairfield, Calif., whom she met at chaplain school. They will wed when he returns from his first deployment in Iraq in 2011 or 2012.

The couple hopes to have joint careers as Army chaplains.

Some people have wondered why they won’t wed before he leaves this fall.

“I want to have a welcome-home kind of happy wedding,” Fortenberry said, “and not a quick, sad, good-bye wedding before he leaves.”

I hope both of them have very productive ministries in the Army as they care for soldiers and their families.


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