Face of Defense: Chaplain Helps Marines in Afghanistan
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mark Garcia
Regional Command Southwest
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM II, Mar. 26, 2012 Growing up as a self-described “military brat,” Navy Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Mark Tews said he knew he wanted to serve his country. But he also felt a calling to be a minister.
Navy Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Mark Tews grew up in a military family and now provides for the spiritual needs of Marines deployed to Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Garcia
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Before his June 1996 commissioning, the chaplain for Regimental Combat Team 6 said, he had been a minister at a parish for four years and knew he wanted to continue that career while in the military.
“I always wanted to kind of follow in my dad’s footsteps by being patriotic and serving my country, but I also had a calling to ministry,” said Tews, 53, from Alvin, Texas. “I knew the only job I could do that in would be as a chaplain, and the Navy happened to be the only branch looking for chaplains at the time.”
During his time in the Navy, Tews has had the opportunity to be a chaplain for Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and has served in Navy surface and aviation commands.
“I think the Navy is one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever had,” Tews said. “I’ve liked the Navy ever since I decided to join. I like the variety and diversity associated with my job.”
During his career, Tews said, one of his sons served a four-year enlistment in the Marine Corps, which allowed him to gain some insight into what Marines go through.
“He’s one of the best chaplains I’ve ever worked for,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James Vanzella, a religious assistant from Lodi, N.J. “He can relate to the Marines because one of his sons is a former Marine. He knows how to talk with and handle Marines -- get on their level, understand where they’re coming from and what they’re going through.”
Vanzella said it is extremely important for Marines to have a chaplain at their disposal.
“If a Marine is having a bad day and needs a place to go and to feel safe and talk about any issues, the chaplain is always there for them,” he explained. “For Marines, this is a place of sanctuary where they don’t have to worry about anything and can talk with the chaplain about anything.”
After serving close to 16 years, Tews said, he wanted the chance to work with Marines again before retiring.
“I wanted to come back to the Marine side after being with the Navy for so long,” he said. “At my first duty station, I got to work with the Marines, and I enjoyed it a lot and wanted to get back to working with the Marines before it’s all said and done.”
While Tews misses his wife and sons, he misses 15-month-old granddaughter the most, he said. But he added that he understands that while serving his year-long deployment, his mission is to counsel, mentor and look after the Marines here.