Joplin teacher answers call to serve

With his wife Sharon by his side, Chaplain Phillip Gloyer (right) is promoted to the new rank of captain with the 1-138th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City. Lt. Col. Levon Cumpton (left) praised Gloyer while his wife pinned on the new rank on Sunday, Feb. 12 before his Family and fellow Citizen-Soldiers. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

With his wife Sharon by his side, Chaplain Phillip Gloyer (right) is promoted to the new rank of captain with the 1-138th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City. Lt. Col. Levon Cumpton (left) praised Gloyer while his wife pinned on the new rank on Sunday, Feb. 12 before his Family and fellow Citizen-Soldiers. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

By Jennifer Archdekin
ngmo.pao@us.army.mil

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On a brisk Sunday morning, temperatures still in the single digits, Chaplain Phillip Gloyer, of Joplin, stood in formation with the 1-138th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City and was promoted to captain. His wife, Sharon, stood by his side and pinned on the new rank.

Gloyer looks back at the past year - in an instant he learned he did not have to travel halfway around the world to serve in a war-torn area but found himself in the midst of massive destruction when a deadly tornado ripped through Joplin on May 22, 2011.

Gloyer was instantly thrust into a position to minister to community members and Soldiers. He comforted neighbors, ministered to those in his church body, and as a communication arts teacher at Joplin High School, he reached out to his students, as well.

"The training I've received as a chaplain has really helped in my role as a teacher," said Gloyer. "They don't typically train teachers to be first response in that kind of emotional trauma. What I've received through the ministry and chaplaincy training really just kicked in. The big secret is that you just got to show you care and take time to listen to people."

As people are faced with what seems to be impossible circumstances in life, adrenaline kicks in and takes over with a fight or flight response. It's not until after the situation has subsided, or at least the urgency has waned, that a person realizes the intense magnitude of the trial.

"If you're going to succeed you have to have a certain level of spiritual resiliency," said Gloyer. "A lot of it is preparation and making sure you're comfortable with your relationship with God, and that you have a solid background in what carries you through difficult times. Afterwards you process it and learn from it, and it helps to share what you've learned with other people."

"A lot of what the chaplain does goes unrecognized," said Lt. Col. Levon Cumpton, commander of the 1-138th Infantry Regiment. "He's very behind the scenes, but always in the middle of things. We all know that the city of Joplin has had a tough year. He's been neck deep in that response. We are very appreciative of that."

Gloyer's entry into the military is a bit unique. At 40-years-old, he received a direct commission to be a chaplain, meaning he went straight into the National Guard with no prior military service.

When the opportunity for him to enlist came about, Gloyer was in the classroom and content with his life. He had his seminary degree, master's of divinity, doctorate and a few years of pastoral experience under his belt.

A Missouri National Guard recruiter presented a program to one of his classes and his interest was to motivate his students.

"I started telling the kids this was a great opportunity and you need to think about this," said Gloyer. "I told them I'd think about it myself, but I'm 20 years too late."

It was brought to his attention that it was not too late. In fact, at the time, there was a great need for chaplains in the National Guard.

"I had an interest in the military right out of high school, like a lot of young men do, but I took a different path that led to ministry," said Gloyer. "I thought I missed the opportunity to serve my country and lo and behold, God brought all of those pieces together. It was God's timing -- the right time at the right place."

For some it may seem like an odd combination -- teaching students, serving with infantrymen and working in the ministry.

"It's not as different as you might think," said Gloyer. "A lot of it is helping people find their place in the world. I'm doing that at the high school level and helping Soldiers understand their sense of purpose."

Gloyer said he feels at home with this unit and knows it is where God has called him to serve.

"I'm really honored to be in this infantry battalion," said Gloyer. "There's a real strong bond with the Soldiers -- a real clear sense of purpose. They know why they're here, they know the mission we'll eventually be called to, and how important it is to get trained for that. I think we have some good leadership that genuinely cares and are concerned for their Soldiers. Hopefully God is using me to bring a little hope and encouragement to some guys that really need it."

At the promotion Gloyer was supported by his wife, Sharon, and their sons Pierce and Jackson. His in-laws, John and Jewell Blevins, of Asbury, were also in attendance. John is a retired Missouri National Guardsman.

Gloyer and his Family attend Forrest Park Baptist Church in Joplin.

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