By Monica K. GuthrieJune 23, 2016
FORT SILL, Okla., June 23, 2016 -- Editor's note: The following is the first half of an article on Chap. (Capt.) Aaron Oliver, a Fort Sill chaplain.
Some argue faith and being a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community are at odds with one another, however for one Fort Sill chaplain the two are not incompatible.
"Some see the two, being gay and faith, as an inconsistency," said Chap. (Capt.) Aaron Oliver. "For me it never really was."
Oliver, chaplain for 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery, is gay.
"I think I've always known that I've been attracted to members of the same sex," said Oliver. "I just didn't put two and two together until I was 16. For three years I didn't tell anyone. It was awful feeling isolated and alone."
Oliver said he had a fear of rejection which only grew when people at his high school suspected or found out he was gay and threatened to beat him up if he came to school. Still he didn't tell anyone.
"It was a pretty horrible experience."
Living a "double life" grew to be a toil on Oliver but he began to gain confidence. When he was 19 he told his family he was gay. Oliver said he was fortunate to have a supportive family and that many gays have religious families, which can impact how the family members respond to someone coming out.
Despite the support, Oliver said it still took him a while to accept being gay and he became depressed, felt isolated and began searching for spiritual support.
"I called out to God for help," said Oliver. "I was in a really bad spot and that's when I started becoming more religious, and I started cultivating a prayer life. I started going to church because I realized I couldn't do it on my own."
The same year Oliver came out, he was also baptized.
"That's when I thought about going to seminary," he said. "I felt a calling from that point. My faith life helped me accept myself for being gay."
Oliver was born, raised and went to college in New Jersey. He left during his senior year of college and enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard as an infantryman in 2003.
Oliver said 9-11 played a part in his decision to join and he contacted a recruiter shortly after.
"I know people who were in the buildings that day," he said. "I'm sure it impacted people but there's something about coming from the area. I could see the twin towers every day. It certainly had an impact."
Oliver knew about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy entering the Army and said he heard stories about harassment and things that happened to Soldiers when others found out they were gay.
Still, he was not deterred.
"Since I was 18 I wanted to serve in the military and serve my country," he said. "I was willing to risk ridicule, discharge or worse because that's how much I wanted to serve. Even with the policy. That was a very nerve-wracking time. Under 'don't ask, don't tell,' I could have been discharged if I told people or people found out."
Oliver did tell a few people in basic training and later at his unit opened up to others, still he said he was nervous. Since the National Guard drills on weekends Oliver was free to be himself during the week.
"I could live a double life -- uniform on the weekend and then a social life outside," he said. "I could be open. But there was always fear in the back of my mind. I would ask myself, 'is this going to be my last day in uniform? Is this the day I'm going to be found out?'"