Face of Defense: Former Stunt Man Makes Leap to Ministry
By Army Spc. Justin Snyder
Special to American Forces Press Service
PATROL BASE MEADE, Iraq, July 21, 2008 Army Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Light gives a weekly sermon and is available for counseling whenever a soldier might need it. But he is not your ordinary chaplain.
Army Chaplain (Capt.) Eric Light, chaplain for the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, stands outside his office on Patrol Base Meade, Iraq. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“When I was in college, money was kind of hard to come by, so I became a stunt guy to pay for college,” said Light, who serves with the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
In the late 1980s, Hollywood was experiencing a writers’ strike. Feeling the pinch from a lack of work there, some of the companies in show business took their shows on the road.
“A guy who was a stuntman moved into town and would put on a Wild West show while trying to obtain the contracts for movies when they came through,” said Light, a native of Kingspen, Tenn., and a graduate of East Tennessee State University. “We happened to go to the same church, and he took me under his wing, teaching me the ropes.”
Light began working at the Wild West show, which led to performing a few stunts for television shows such as “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Rescue 911.” The work on those shows paid most of his way through college.
Following college graduation in 1993, Light quit the stunt man life and began what he said he believed to be his true calling, ministry. He started working with college students in a counselor-like role at the University of Michigan, then at the University of California State in Fullerton.
After the university’s program diminished due to a lack of funding, Light found himself without a job. He struggled to find employment for a few years, eventually distributing a resume with the hope someone would contact him for work.
He finally got a call, but from an unexpected place: the Army.
“I got a call from a retired Army chaplain asking if I’d be interested in being a chaplain in the military. I told him, ‘No,’ because I wanted to work with college-age kids from 18 to 25 years old.” Light said.
“He kind of laughed at me after that statement, because soldiers of that age make up a lot of the Army. After that, the light bulb came on, and I knew this was what God was calling me to do.”
Over the next 15 months, he lost 50 pounds to meet the Army’s weight standards and headed off to basic chaplains training. After graduation, he was assigned to the 1-187th Infantry Regiment, where he received word that he would be deploying to Iraq.
“Getting deployed was never a problem for me,” Light said. “All of the active-duty people in my class were getting deployed, so I knew it was a matter of time. What good would I be if I could not deploy with the soldiers I am here for?”
Light said he constantly is learning and trying to improve himself as a better chaplain during his first deployment. Recently, he had an experience that served as a confidence booster.
“I was sitting outside reading when the company commander came walking by and told me I was a good chaplain,” he recalled. “For someone outside of the Chaplain Corps to randomly come up to me and notice what I was doing, that really proved to me that being here was the right thing and that I was doing a good job.”
While he isn’t outside the wire all the time, Light said, he knows his job is equally as important. He must be there not only for the soldiers who are deployed, but also for their families back at home.
“Never in our nation’s history have families had to give up so much,” he said. “While I’m not out there on the front line fighting, it’s my job to be there for [soldiers] when they come back. If I can help prepare these soldiers to go back to their families, I’m doing my part.”
(Army Spc. Justin Snyder serves in the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team public Affairs Office.)