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A Yuma chaplain’s story: Lt. Cmdr. Farmer bids MAG-13 farewell

By Desert Warrior Staff | | October 7, 2010

A chaplain in the U.S. Navy must have the ability to pass on the words of God to the Marines and sailors under their charge, as well as set an example others want to emulate.

For Lt. Cmdr. Carl H. Farmer, these abilities came naturally. Lending a helping hand, issuing wise, scripture-based advice, and mentoring and encouraging many through trying times of life are all part of the job description that Farmer has held for so long.

Born in Detroit, Farmer, the seventh of eight children, never had much. In order to pay for his education, he decided to join the Navy in 1973.

“I saw a chance to get the education that none of my family had gotten before,” said Farmer.

Farmer completed basic training and joined the fleet as a seaman apprentice. During his four years as a Corpsman, Farmer served at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, S.C. and aboard USS Edward McDonnel, leaving active duty as a Petty Officer 2nd Class.

“It was a good time in my life,” said Farmer. “I learned a lot being a kid from Detroit with only 17 years on the earth.”

Afterwards, Farmer made good on his goals of going to college and joined the Navy reserves.

“I decided it was a good idea to join the reserves while I went to college,” said Farmer. “Not as a way to stay in the service but as a way to make some easy money.”

While in college, Farmer began studying religion and found his calling.

“Well, I noticed that all the people who went to the religious study group knew a lot more than I did,” said Farmer. “So I decided to attend and see why they were doing so much better in their studies than I was. After a few meetings I just had the thought that this is what I should be doing so I transferred to Evangel University in Missouri.”

There Farmer earned a bachelor of arts degree in biblical studies and received his master of divinity degree from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 1988.

Farmer quickly assumed a teaching position at Evangel, where he also met and married his wife of 20 years, Olivia.

However, their honeymoon was cut short by Farmer’s previous commitment, the Navy reserves.

In January 1991, Farmer’s reserve unit was activated and traveled to Saudi Arabia to support Operation Desert Storm. After the three-month deployment, Farmer returned to the states and started working at a book store. Life carried on as usual until he received an important and surprising call.

“I had quit my job at the college and was working at a book store in the religious section when I got a call from the Church in Homewood, Ill., they asked me to come to their church and become a preacher there. It was God telling me that this was my next step in life.”

Farmer was ordained by The Assemblies of God in 1991 and in 1993 moved his family to Park Forest, Ill., assuming his role as associate pastor.

This move wasn’t the first nor the last time Farmer would see the work of God in his life.

After ministering in Homewood for two years, Farmer again felt God calling him elsewhere. This time it was to rejoin the Navy as an active duty chaplain.

“I was at an assembly and was sitting at a table with some other members from the church when it came to me, I should become a chaplain in the Navy. I told those around me and they were surprised, and at that moment a chaplain stepped on the stage and announced that the Navy was hurting for chaplains. I simply looked up and said,‘OK God, I hear you.’”

Farmer was commissioned in 1995 and assigned to the Seabee chapel in Port Hueneme, Calif.

His other chaplain posts include Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, Training School Command Chaplain, Naval Training Center Great Lakes, USS Emory S. Land, Region West Chaplain Recruiter and his current position as Marine Aircraft Group 13’s chaplain.

With his retirement from the Navy after 37 years of service, Farmer plans to head back to Chicago. However, this time he and his family will be in the nearby suburb of Gurnee, Ill., where Farmer hopes to be picked to be a pastor at the Assembly of God church there.

“It’s been a long hard road,” said Farmer. “However, throughout it all I’ve always felt that with each step I took I made it with the direction of God.”

While Farmer is leaving Yuma to be with his family, he’s leaving behind Marines and sailors who already think of him as one of their own.

“MAG’s not only losing a great chaplain,” said Lance Cpl. Jarry Smith, military police officer who has worked with Farmer for the last five months. “A lot of people, including myself, feel like we’re losing a friend, even a member of the family.”

However, even with his departure, Farmer has left his mark on those he had contact with.

“He’s a great man,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Jedding, MAG-13 religious program specialist. “He’s taken care of me and my family, especially when I deployed to Afghanistan. I had asked him to contact my mother if anything happened to me, he said he couldn’t just contact her, he’d have to go see her.”

During Farmer’s retirement ceremony the fruits of his ministries were apparent as Marines and sailors attended from all ranks and many different locations across the Corps and Navy.

“It was an honor to serve my country and the Marines and sailors under my charge,” said Farmer. “In fact I wish I’d have had the time to visit more of the Marines on base. However, I know that I’m going to miss the people on this base and all I can hope is that they continue to prosper in my absence and continue to do the great work that they do.”

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