May 31, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Volunteer: Ruben Vargas
Activities: Hispanic Protestant Worship Service Minister
Fort Jackson 2012 Volunteer Hall of Fame inductee Ruben Vargas was looking for guidance after leaving the Army. A knee injury made his future in uniform look less than exciting, he said, but he knew he wasn't ready to step away from the Army after more than 15 years of service.
"I had an accident and ended up with my knee needing surgery," he said. "I would have had a level three profile, which wouldn't have allowed me to hardly do anything, so I just decided to get out. God wanted me to get out so I could do his will."
He was invited to become a music pastor at Fort Jackson, and decided it was a good way to meet his needs, as well as the needs of Soldiers.
"I already had a job at Fort Riley," he said. "But I prayed about it. I told God what I wanted to do, but that I didn't want to receive any money for it. I just wanted to volunteer my time. So, I said, 'Give me a job where I am able to do this.'"
The Hispanic worship service at Fort Jackson, he decided, fit the bill.
"The ministry started the Hispanic service in 1993," he said. "When we started we had 20 people. We've got about 500 to 600 Soldiers now."
Growing pains took their toll on the congregation, which moved to several different locations over the years. They currently meet at the Fort Jackson Post Theater. They meet each Sunday morning, and Vargas spends time with Soldiers and their families on Wednesdays during Family Day.
"I'm the pastor now," he said. "I'm the only civilian pastor in basic training. I spent half of my life in the military. When I got out, I still had the feelings to help and be around the troops. I know the things they go through and wanted to help."