Lutheran Pastor, Ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Served as an active duty Navy Chaplain since 1992
Veteran of two Operation Iraqi Freedom deployments (Aug 2005-March 2006 and Jan 2007 – Feb 2008) with surgical, shock and trauma and mortuary affairs units
Served for three years, 2002-2005, as the chaplain to the President and First Family at Camp David
Has served with all five branches of the U.S. military during his career including Navy ships, Marine helicopter squadrons, Coast Guard river units and Army and Air Force communications units
Currently serving as chaplain for the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush (which will be commissioned next year)
Attended the University of South Carolina Upstate
Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts
He and his wife, Leigh, have five children
Chaplain McLaughlin: 'No Atheists in Foxholes'
By Mimi Elliott
The 700 Club
Patrick is often asked how he got to be the chaplain at the presidential retreat, Camp David. He says it all started with a cell phone call he received in the Memphis International Airport in September 2000. The senior chaplain who makes assignments for the Navy called to let Patrick know he had been nominated by the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains as a candidate for the chaplaincy at Camp David. He interviewed with the Navy staff at the retreat in December 2000. He recalls preaching a good sermon to the congregation and then stopping by the gift shop to get an embroidered sweatshirt - just in case this was the only time he would ever be at the presidential retreat. But it wouldn’t be his last time; the command at Camp David called him in January 2001 to offer him the chaplain position for the following year.
His first day on the job, Patrick recalls his first encounter with President Bush. When Bush found out Patrick was the new chaplain, he asked with a chuckle, “Are you any good?”
Patrick, who was never at a loss for words simply replied, “Yes sir, the Navy sent me here. I can hold my own.” Turns out it was a good response to a president who is a very confident man. On some 60 occasions during those three years from 2002 - 2005, Patrick stood before the congregation at the presidential retreat with the Commander-in-Chief in attendance. Less than two months after finishing his assignment at the retreat, Patrick was on the ground in Iraq with the Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon of Combat Logistics Regiment 25 out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
WELCOME TO IRAQ
In August 2005, Patrick and other service members off-loaded the plane that took them to Iraq. He remembered in the darkness of the night a voice that hollered out in the darkness, “Welcome to Iraq! Welcome to hell!”
Patrick recalls his first unforgettable day in Iraq. An Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) soldier was lying on the operating table having undergone abdominal surgery for gunshot injuries. The soldier had suffered irreparable damage to major arteries and gone through 30 units of blood. The bleeding did not stop. The surgeons were left with no choice but to pack his abdomen with gauze, apply pressure and hope that the bleeding would stop. Unfortunately, it did not.
“If I could have performed a miracle, I would have. Instead, all I could do was pray for this Iraqi soldier and for those who would follow in his footsteps to this same fate,” recalls Patrick.
While in Iraq, Patrick found that prayer was his constant companion. Halfway through his deployment, in addition to serving as chaplain for the Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon, he also began to serve as chaplain to the marines of Mortuary Affairs. These marines take care of angels, those that have died in Iraq. As marines recover and prepare the deceased for shipment to the designated location, Patrick read scripture and offered prayer for each angel. After seven months in Iraq he returned home to North Carolina for 10 months with his wife and five children before he returned to Iraq to serve another 13-month deployment.
Patrick has been an ordained Lutheran pastor since May 1989. He served churches in Virginia and North Carolina prior to joining the Navy. Since 1993 he has served as an active duty Navy chaplain with every branch of the military. As a military chaplain, Patrick is a noncombatant. He does not carry a weapon, but rather ministers to combatants in a war zone. He serves as a messenger of God’s peace and forgiveness.
“It is the sacred duty and honor of chaplains to provide holy moments and pathways to God, wherever the Marine Corps sends us,” says Patrick. For five years while serving with sailors, marines, coast guardsmen, soldiers, and airmen he wrote out prayers. These prayers helped him get through some of his most stressful days in Iraq and encouraged him to stay in constant, daily communication with God.
After 16 years of service, Patrick says Veterans Day to him, “is a time to honor those people that have made life here in the United States possible by serving their country.”
Despite your thoughts on this war or any other, Patrick urges you to, “Pray continually for those in harm’s way and for those who govern us and make the decisions that send our troops around the globe.”
He says whatever you do, keep praying. Your prayers and support for the troops mean more than you know.
Patrick also credits his wife and family with being very supportive during tough, 13-month deployments. “Knowing that Leigh is taking care of the family while I’m away is very comforting,” says Patrick.
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