FORT KNOX, Ky. — As people gathered in Cavalry Chapel for the National Day of Prayer service May 5, Fort Knox Garrison Chaplain (Col.) Charles Hamlin introduced the new Soldier standing next to him.
“This is my twin,” Hamlin said with a grin to some of the parishioners.
The parishioners laughed, acknowledging the obvious joke and their not-twin like resemblance. His son, Chaplain (1st Lt.) Luke Hamlin, also laughed.
Afterward, the junior Hamlin said the event was the first time they have served together in a military capacity, and possibly their only time.
“When we were able to do that, it was an amazing experience for me,” said Luke. “For both of us to wear the chaplain cross and the Army uniform together before he retires was such an honor.”
Both men admit it wasn’t that long ago that the opportunity didn’t exist.
Charles has served as a pastor and chaplain over 28 years. As a 30-year-old, Luke grew up in the shadow of his father’s ministry — a proverbial “military brat” as well as a “PK,” or preacher’s kid.
Luke said he remembers many holidays with Soldiers joining them around the table. He fondly remembered other experiences.
“I remember before the second grade riding my bike while he would run to stay in shape for the Army. He had to do a lot of that on his own while in the Reserve world as a pastor,” said Luke. “It was nice because he had a lot more freedom than most 9-to-5 jobs, where he could take us to his work, or take us to different places.
“Growing up, it was a very good experience.”
As Luke was preparing for second grade, Charles switched to active duty and moved the family to Fort Knox for the first time.
Previously, Charles enlisted in the Army in 1981. He said he felt the call to ministry back then but didn’t pursue it until leaving active duty in 1986. He didn’t feel a desire to join the chaplaincy until around 1992, achieving that goal in 1994.
“Always in my mind there was a calling to the ministry,” said Charles. “My grandfather was a bi-vocational minister, working on the railroad and then pastoring. His father also was a bi-vocational pastor, and many more in my family. There’s a great lineage of individuals doing ministerial work.”
Charles said he first got wind of Luke’s intentions about three or four years ago during a conversation with him.
“Being a minister or pastor or chaplain is a calling,” said Charles. “Luke told me, ‘I think I feel the calling to the ministry, to the chaplaincy specifically.’ That started his journey, and I was pretty proud.”
Charles said he feels that the call to serve in ministry can and should be very rewarding.
“I think it’s a joy that we get to serve the God who created everything. It’s not a joy that says, ‘Look at me. I ‘m better than everyone.’ It’s just a joy to serve God in that capacity, and to hopefully – as our Army chaplain motto goes – ‘Bring Soldiers to God and God to Soldiers.’”
Luke had different plans for his life.
“I didn’t have any intentions of going into the ministry,” said Luke. “I just felt like it wasn’t something I was called to, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do. So I went to college.”
Luke pursued a career as a police officer, instead. After finishing his degree, he worked a beat for about a year.
“I decided it wasn’t something for me,” said Luke.
So he decided to be a social worker. Four years into it, after earning a master’s degree, he hit another crossroad.
“I was sitting at my desk at work for the state of Kentucky, on a lunch break,” said Luke. “I realized that while I loved what I did, helping kids and mentally disabled adults, I just didn’t feel completely fulfilled.”
Luke said he began connecting dots between his social work and what his father did when the realization hit him; as a chaplain he could do basically the same work. So he went back to school a third time, finishing a Master of Divinity about 1 ½ years ago.
He hasn’t looked back since.
Like his father, Luke attributes much of his own changing desires to the family’s lineage of Christian service.
“The legacy of Christian values, and the close-knit family in my opinion started from my dad’s parents, and my mom’s parents — and then our parents embracing and continuing that legacy,” said Luke. “My grandparents on both sides instilled that to my parents, who instilled that to us.”
Luke said his sister serves as a teacher in a Christian school, and his brother is a Christian working for the railroad. As for Luke, he now pastors near Fort Knox and serves as a chaplain in the Reserves.
“Faith is our glue,” said Luke. “When we all get together, everybody is a believer, a follower of Jesus.”
Charles said the lineage of faith is also a one of sincere care and concern for Soldiers, a passion shared by both men.
“It is a joy to see [Luke] following in my footsteps. The legacy continues,” said Charles. “Whether Luke stays in the Reserves or goes into active duty, there will be a legacy there for the foreseeable future of our impact on Soldiers’ lives for God.”