Misson of the Chaplain

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
Story by Cpl. Micha Pierce

Date: 05.15.2019
Posted: 06.19.2019 10:20
News ID: 328310
Mission of the Chaplain

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Derek N. Vande-Slunt, deputy command chaplain for Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (MCAS), North Carolina, started out as a volunteer chaplain for the New York Fire Department in 2000 at 25 years old. Vande-Slunt’s 14 years of civilian experience in ministry aided him in his transition into naval chaplaincy.
Vande-Slunt had his life set out for himself since childhood, at the age of 11 he told his parents he wanted to become a minister.
While Vande-Slunt was doing civilian chaplaincy, what some may consider the most tragic event in U.S. history occurred.
“Sept. 11 happened right around then, the bombing of the twin towers,” Vande-Slunt said. “I was in upstate New York, so then we had a rallying supportive role in taking care of the firefighters across the state.”
This was when he first realized how chaplains react to a major event or crisis. A church that Vande-Slunt was ministering at had a lot of veterans who kept asking him if he was considering military chaplaincy. That’s when he decided to become more dedicated to the idea of becoming a U.S. Navy chaplain. He commissioned on July 20, 2016.
“I chose the Navy, I just think being able to work with Marines is cool,” Vande-Slunt said. “The fact that we get to go on ships and do land ministry. There’s just a lot of other parts to being in the Navy.”
The four key roles of being a chaplain are: to provide aid to Marines and Sailors in need within his specific faith group, care for any Marines or Sailors seeking help, facilitate the Marine or Sailor that has a specific need that he cannot provide, and advise the Marine or Sailor making sure they get the proper care they need. Chaplains conduct training every month to help them learn and teach other chaplains how to better approach and care for Marines and Sailors.
Vande-Slunt said that his favorite part about being a chaplain is seeing the positive impact he has made on people; helping them see in a new perspective and helping them grow so they can draw closer to their faith.
One thing Vande-Slunt said he’d ask of the congregation on Cherry Point is to never hesitate to ask for help or for someone to talk to.
“When you ask for help you become stronger, it’s not a sign of weakness,” Vande-Slunt said.
According to Vande-Slunt, coming to the chaplain makes you stronger because you’re coming to someone with a level of experience. Vande-Slunt said that it’s why he’s here; he’s here to be used as a resource for the service members in need.
“He’s a solid minister, he’s a good man of character, and he’s a good father,” said MCAS Cherry Point command chaplain Commander Bennett Sandford. “I’ve watched him with his kids, he supports his wife, and I think that he is what we look for when we try to find new chaplains.”
Vande-Slunt will be leaving his duties here on August 1, 2019, to continue his chaplaincy on his first ship. Sandford will be the only chaplain on Cherry Point until a replacement is found for Vande-Slunt.