"Freedom of religion has been held very dearly from the foundation of our country, so to be able to provide that for our soldiers who serve our country has been an amazing ministry."

The Rev. Karen Meeker '90 (classics) has leapt from airplanes and set her boots on dangerous ground in the name of God and country.

A United Methodist ordained elder and Army lieutenant colonel, Meeker has trained as a master parachutist and accompanied the 101st Airborne Division on deployment in Afghanistan. She also has worked under the Army chief of chaplains at the Pentagon and was recently named division chaplain at Fort Bliss, Texas, where she supervises a team of more than 45 chaplains meeting the religious needs of some 60,000 military and civilian residents.

A native of the small town of Huntington Mills, Pa., Meeker says she sensed a call to religious ministry at the age of 12 and not long after felt a parallel call to serve her country. She entered Bucknell and basic training in 1986, attending the University on an Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship, and following graduation enrolled in seminary at Harvard Divinity School. She would minister in several United Methodist churches in central Pennsylvania before returning to military service as a chaplain.

"It was a great fit for me, coming from a hard-working, blue-collar community that was really grateful for the country that we have," Meeker says. "Freedom of religion has been held very dearly from the foundation of our country, so to be able to provide that for our soldiers who serve our country has been an amazing ministry."

Meeker's job is fraught with its own intrinsic challenges, the most trying of which involves serving on teams that notify family members after a soldier has died in service. But it holds unique rewards as well. Meeker says her favorite moments come in witnessing reunions of returning soldiers and their families.

"It's really emotional," she says. "On the one end it's the ultimate sacrifice, and then on the other it's seeing the mission complete and the happy reunion with family. It's just great."

Posted November 2013

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