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Chaplain connects soldiers in Afghanistan with people at home

Just before Thanksgiving, Jerry and Ruth Montgomery of University Congregational UCC “adopted” 160 soldiers at Fort Lewis.  The soldiers were about to deploy for a year in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Jerry Montgomery

Jerry Montgomery invites members of the Peninsula UCC to adopt soldiers.

A soldier from the unit had lived with the Montgomerys for three months last summer after his more than six years in the Army, including two deployments in Iraq, ended.

Montgomery, who is retired and volunteers as a police and firefighter chaplain, offered to help soldiers who might need assistance and support in the U.S. while they were in Afghanistan.  The soldier shared the offer with his sergeant, who told his commanding officer.

When he was expecting to meet with the sergeant and captain at a restaurant, 13 came.  The unit’s leaders had met and decided to accept the Montgomerys as their “back home assets.”  They set up the Battle Company Project.

View video of the return of the soldiers, welcomed by University Congregational UCC:

Suddenly gaining 160 soldier/sons, Montgomery told Peter Ilgenfritz, one of the pastors at University UCC, who in turn announced the “adoption” in church. 

“Most of the soldiers, who are 19 and 20, were anxious about this grand adventure of their lives,” he said.  “They were not afraid of bullets but were afraid of being forgotten by Americans.  I promised they would not be forgotten.”

After the soldiers deployed on Dec. 10, Montgomery was swamped by more than 110 soldiers and family members writing on his Facebook page.

He was also swamped by people who committed to do a year of writing letters, sending packages, praying daily and responding to soldiers’ needs—65 members of the church.

Montgomery also spoke to members of Peninsula UCC and gained five more partners.  Montgomery knew retired pastor Ed Evans when both were news reporters in Seattle decades ago.

People from Alaska, the Carolinas, Minnesota and California have also volunteered.

Montgomery spends two to four hours a day on Facebook connecting with and praying for the soldiers.  Using his journalistic experience, he also blogs, encouraging the young men to think about themselves and their lives as their “grand adventure unfolds” in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, far from anything.  The first thing they did when they rebuilt their camp was be sure they had an internet connection.

The soldiers have sent photos and video about their work.  The blog sometimes reaches 1,000 hits a day, he said.

“All we really did was give faces and names to otherwise anonymous soldiers,” he said, “and we opened up hearts.”

Montgomery, who has been chaplain of the Boeing Fire Department for 15 years, said firefighters have helped provide funds for postage, as well as being partners with soldiers and of “honey do” tasks for spouses.

Montgomery served Lake-view Community Church, First Congregational in Oakland and Anderson Island Community Church in Puget Sound.  He runs Montgomery Communication computer consulting, does video productions and publishes books and training manuals. 

When earning his doctoral degree in the 1970s, he developed the model of emergency services that were put into play in King County and became a model for EMs care.

He has met only eight of the soldiers in person, finding them “so young and yet so mature.”

He started his career with United Press International and also worked for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Port Angeles Daily News and the Seattle Times.

For information, call 253-582-1122, email or visit


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © February 2012


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