In his early years at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Lt. Col. Matthew Madison looked into the chaplain candidate program, even got a physical. But he didn’t pursue it further at that point.
Then came his final semester in seminary.
“When 9/11 hit, I thought, I don’t want to be 50 and look back on my life and wish I had served,” said Madison, whose grandfather was an infantryman during World War II. “I figured I would do a few years and then go into local church ministry. But God had other plans.”
Madison’s military service and his role as a chaplain has taken him to Afghanistan, Italy, Arlington National Cemetery and to Redstone Arsenal, where he’s the new Garrison chaplain.
He came to the Garrison from the Army Contracting Command, where he was the command chaplain.
“Being a chaplain for me is a calling and it’s very rewarding,” Madison said. “I like the change, and that it’s not the same every day, every week, every year. I enjoy learning new things.”
Madison said the chaplaincy is different from civilian ministry in that “you go to where your people work. I walk the halls and see the people that are over in the Garrison headquarters. When you’re with Soldiers in a unit, you go to the field where they’re in the field and deploy if they deploy.
“We provide religious support and advise the command,” he said. “We provide soul care for the Army.”
In a combat environment, a chaplain’s ministry has “a different focus, a different set of challenges, but it’s equally rewarding,” he said.
“In the Chaplain Corps, we nurture the living, we care for the wounded, and we honor the fallen. On a deployment, you’re doing all three of those. No one else’s mission in the Army is to do those three things.”
“I think he brings new perspective and vision and passion to this position,” said Lt. Col. Charles Lahmon, who was succeeded Aug. 21 as chaplain by Madison and whose retirement ceremony is Dec. 8. “He’s all about people first. He deeply cares for people.”
Lahmon, who first met Madison when he joined ACC as chaplain, said his colleague eagerly looks for opportunities to serve in a variety of capacities.
A native of New Jersey, Madison grew up in Decatur, graduating from Decatur High. He received a bachelor’s in mass communications from Auburn University, where he played basketball his freshman year in 1993 as an invited walk-on, playing under head coach Tommy Joe Eagles.
Upon receiving a master’s of divinity from Beeson in 2001, Madison enlisted in the infantry and served for a year and a half, including a deployment to Afghanistan, before receiving a direct commission as an active-duty chaplain. From 2003-07, Madison was a chaplain in both the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Special Forces Group, deploying again to Afghanistan.
A licensed and ordained Southern Baptist minister, Madison resigned his commission to become the family minister at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona.
“We felt God calling us back into local church ministry,” said Madison, who has been married to the former Janet Lorraine Caraway for 27 years. They are the parents of two children.
Then, in October 2010, he returned to active duty as a chaplain and has since served in a variety of assignments, including as a cemetery chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery, as a brigade chaplain in the 82nd Airborne Division and as the operations chaplain at Southern European Task Force, Africa in Vicenza, Italy.
Madison’s military decorations and awards include the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with one silver oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal and the Valorous Unit Award with one oak leaf cluster.
He completed a master’s of theology with a focus in ethics from Duke Divinity School in 2018.
This is Madison’s first garrison assignment, and he wants Department of the Army civilians to be aware of the resources that are available to them through the Office of the Chaplain.
“Soldiers know about chaplains. Many times, our DA civilians don’t know that they have as much access to their chaplains as Soldiers do,” he said. “Our chaplains and our religious affairs specialists are both able to provide that confidential communication” for relationship, work and financial issues.
A Protestant worship service is held on Sundays at 11 a.m. at Bicentennial Chapel and, for those Soldiers or civilians who aren’t Protestant and have needs, “we’re here to make sure they know where those resources are,” Madison said.
“I’m excited about learning and serving the Redstone community,” he said. “We invite people to reach out if they’re in need.”