Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort --
Commander Dean Hoelz, the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort chaplain, retired after 22 years of faithful service at a retirement ceremony at the MCAS Beaufort Chapel, Feb. 7.
MCAS Beaufort commanding officer, Col. Brian Murtha, was the retiring officer and Rear Adm. Doug Morton, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic was the guest speaker for the ceremony.
Chaplain Hoelz, a native of Summerville S.C., enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1976 and served in the 282nd U.S. Army Band at Fort Jackson S.C. and as a military test subject for the Army’s Research and Development Command in Natick Mass.
Hoelz was discharged from the Army in 1983 and received his bachelor degree in religion and sociology. Eight years later he received a masters degree in Divinity, was ordained and served as the pastor for a Lutheran parish in the Upper Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America until he entered the Navy Chaplain Corps in 1994.
Hoelz met Morton during his first tour with Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 133. Morton recounted how they lived down the street from each other and eventually deployed to Bosnia together.
“It was the best thing that happened to me in my Navy career,” Morton said. “Throughout our time in theater, chaplain Hoelz was everywhere.”
Morton shared stories about his time in Bosnia with Hoelz ranging from humorous to personal and how he was able to connect with the service members under his care.
“I’ve had other chaplains with the SEABEEs but something was different about Dean” Morton said. “Not only was he approachable but he was keenly interested in how he could affect the lives of the people and the mission of our unit.”
Morton held up a framed photo he said was on display in his office since his return from the deployment to Bosnia. The picture showed him, Hoelz and two other sailors about 70 days into the deployment. Morton and the other two sailors uniforms were as he described it, pristine. The uniform Hoelz wore looked very different.
“It was a total mess,” Morton exclaimed. “It was a mess because he lived his ministry. He got in the mud with everybody, and that’s why I love Chaplain Holez; he wants to be there and understand what they go through so he can apply the wisdom God has granted him to their circumstances, and he did.”
Hoelz continued to serve Marines at Camp Lejeune N.C., aboard the USS Chosin, Fort Leonard Wood Missouri, aboard the USS Wasp and was the command chaplain for Marine Aircraft Group 12 at Iwakuni Japan and completed his service aboard MCAS Beaufort.
“I’m not where I thought I would be in my life today,” Hoelz said. “After 22 years of military service I am in debt up to my eyeballs. The Debt I’m talking about reflects the words of St. Paul to the Romans, ‘let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.’ Today isn’t about me. This is my chance to thank all of you. Each of you has made an impact upon me in some shape or form that has made me the person I am today.”
The piping ashore is a custom that dates back as early as the 1500s. Use of the jolly boat was extended to company officers, dignitaries and other port officials to bring them aboard or ashore instead of climbing the rat lines used by enlisted personnel. It was not uncommon for the commanding officer of the ship to extend the use of the jolly boat, sideboys and boatswain to send an old shipmate ashore to his retirement. Never to sail again.
The custom still holds that as the shipmate retires, he passes the gauntlet of sideboys saluting, symbolic of the crews respect and gratitude for his service.
“We have a lot of gear in the military,” Hoelz said. “It’s cool stuff but it’s really about our relationships with each other. That’s what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. If there is any take away from all this I hope that’s it’s that one person can make a difference.”
Boatswain, standby to pipe the side. Shipmate going ashore.
Fair winds and following seas.