For 20 years, Chaplain Col. Matthew Pawlikowski has made it his mission to embody the old adage “for God and country.” He had traveled the world, performing God’s work in Egypt, Afghanistan, Haiti and Germany. From 2012 to 2020, Pawlikowski served proudly as the U.S. Military Academy Chaplain, and now, at the twilight of his tenure as a chaplain here, it was officially time to retire. A recommendation needed to be made, but finding the right chaplain to replace him was, by no means, a simple task.
Nonetheless, Pawlikowski still recalls his first meeting with Chaplain Col. Keith N. Goode in 2000 during a Senior Chaplains Conference at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He remembered the charisma and worldly insight Goode exuded. Vibrant chaplains like Goode are what made Chaplain Conferences an experience to look forward to.
Through the years, Pawlikowski would attend the conferences to find inspiration amongst his colleagues and understood how industrious and dependable each chaplain was. Still, he also understood that not every chaplain was the right fit as a USMA Chaplain as he was searching for a replacement.
“The chaplain replacing me would need to have the right personality and talents to knowledgeably perform his chaplain services for the cadets at West Point,” Pawlikowski said.
At the beginning of the process, Pawlikowski remained uncertain for a while and did not consider Goode because he was working as the Chief of Chaplain’s executive officer in the Pentagon, where he would run the Chief of Chaplain’s staff.
When it came time to appoint the new USMA chaplain, Pawlikowski recommended Goode to Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams and Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Solhjem. Initially, Pawlikowski didn’t even think to ask Goode and believed Solhjem wouldn’t let him go.
To Pawlikowski’s surprise, Solhjem decided to let Goode serve and fill Pawlikowski’s former position as a USMA Chaplain. Once Pawlikowski realized it was possible, he knew Goode was the right chaplain for the job.
“It was a miracle because I’ve been here before,” Goode said. “I was a regiment chaplain at West Point from 2004 to 2006, and I had always thought, ‘wow, wouldn’t it be fun if I could do that again?’”
Goode said providing the cadets a balance between a sound mind and unwavering faith is part of building their character and becoming efficient leaders for future generations.
It isn’t enough to preach the word of God. Getting to know the cadets and understand who they are as people will allow him to mend whatever hardships they may face in the future, Goode explained.
“What I’m doing here at West Point is not just what I do on Sunday,” Goode said. “It’s what I’m doing every day to shape them where 30 years from now when these young men and women are leaders of the Army, the nation and of business all across America.”
Pawlikowski said as the USMA Chaplain, working with cadets is a privilege and you get to be involved in the formation of young adults who are forging their identities as servant leaders of the free world.
Through their journeys, the cadets will encounter hardships. Some of those challenging experiences will negatively impact them. However, the balance of willpower and faith is needed to persevere. The military will help sustain that willpower, but the chaplains will preserve the faith, Pawlikowski said.