By Brandon BieltzMay 26, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (May 26, 2011) - When asked to describe Installation Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin Stroop, chaplain assistant Sgt. Jason Spahlinger had only one word -- "amazing."
"He is such a great guy," Spahlinger said. "He is the most caring person I've ever met."
Stroop, who has served as installation chaplain since June 2009, was honored for his service as an Army chaplain at a retirement ceremony May 18 at the Courses Clubhouse.
The chaplain, who will move to South Carolina with his wife, Dawn, officially retires from active duty Aug. 31. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Sid Taylor will assume duties as installation chaplain on June 22.
Stroop's military career began in 1981, when he joined the National Guard as a way to help pay for his tuition at United Wesleyan College in Allentown, Pa., where he studied ministry.
However, Stroop didn't receive any money for tuition due to separation of church and state.
"That didn't quite work," he said.
During his eight-year enlistment in the National Guard, Stroop served in various units in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
After graduating from Duke University with a Master of Divinity degree, Stroop was commissioned as an Army chaplain.
"When I finished seminary, it just seemed like the natural step to put my life as a part-time Soldier and life as a full-time minister and add them together," Stroop said.
During his 21 years as an Army chaplain, Stroop has served at Fort Polk, La.; Fort Hood, Texas; Friedberg, Germany; Bosnia-Herzegovina; The Presidio of Monterey, Calif.; Fort Myer, Va.; and Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
The native of Pottstown, Pa., has two sons: Kevin, 23, who recently graduated from basic training, and Benjamin, 21.
"What we're really doing today with this recognitin ceremony is providing a capstone of Lt. Col. Stroop's service," Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas said at the retirement ceremony. "When you get right down to it, this is impossible. There is no way to appropriately capture what he and his family have done during his entire time in the service."
The ceremony was attended by members of numerous Fort Meade organizations, which honored Stroop and presented him with awards and gifts.
"Chaplain Stroop has done a wonderful job," said Col. Peter Masterton of U.S. Army Claims Services. "You're a wonderful preacher, a compassionate man and, most importantly, a faithful man of God."
While presenting gifts on behalf of the chapel staff, Spahlinger called Stroop a "Soldier's chaplain."
Spahlinger presented Stroop with a letter from Richard Brodhead, the president of Duke University, and a miniature statue of the Duke Chapel. Since Spahlinger's favorite part of morning mass was talking about sports with Stroop, he gave Stroop a book autographed by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Dawn Stroop was also recognized for her volunteerism, service as a library technician at the Medal of Honor Memorial Library and her 30 years as a military spouse.
"He could not have done this without you," said Chaplain (Col.) Steven Berry, command chaplain for the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington, D.C.
During his remarks, Stroop thanked his wife, sons and parents.
He also reflected on the first time he had to go to the home of a fallen service member to notify the family that the Soldier had died. Stroop said this task gave him the biggest sense of pride and the "most sinister feeling" during his time in the Army.
"I was most proud because I had the chance to serve with those kind of men and women who put it all on the line each and every day," he said.
After the ceremony, Stroop said he would miss the camaraderie of the Army, but looks forward to joining the family of retired service members.
As they move to South Carolina, Stroop and his wife plan to "dive into the community." Stroop, a frequent visitor to the Courses, said to golf year-round in the warmer climate is a nice perk.
"The ability to play golf in January in a sweatshirt and shorts -- that's where I want to be," he said.
Stroop encouraged his staff to continue the ministry and support the next installation chaplain.
"Forget about me and focus on the next person who sits in my seat," he said. "It's been a fun ride. ... Thank you so much."