Retired military chaplain enjoying ‘a good and rewarding life’

Published 11:04 am Saturday, July 26, 2014

Merle Monahan/Contributing Writer

WINDSOR—Retired Army Chaplain Basil “Buzz” Ballard and his wife, Grace, have traveled so much during their marriage that it’s difficult to remember exactly where their hometown is, he joked with a smile.

“We’d like to say Windsor, because we love it here,” Ballard, a former pastor of Windsor Christian Church, said of his residency now, “but we spent most of our younger years in Ohio.

“In fact, Grace and I attended the same school in Ohio and dated all through high school. We got married right after she graduated. She was 17 and I was 18.”

He noted that he acquired the nickname Buzz after he portrayed a character by that name in a school play.

“I sort of liked it,” he added with a grin.

The 72-year-old Army veteran, who preached his first sermon when he was stationed in Vietnam in 1969, retired from the Windsor Christian Church in 2006 after 12 years there. Ballard now fills in at various churches for other pastors, which is just perfect at this stage in his life, he said.

“I have slowed down somewhat,” he added. “I’m a member of the Windsor Ruritans, sit on the board of the Eastern Virginia Ministerial Association and Lake Prince Woods Advisory Board.

“And I enjoy spending time at home, just taking it easy.”

The accomplishments of this father of two and grandfather of four, three of whom are top-ranking officers in the Army, are impressive.

He and his wife have traveled across the states and over many parts of the world.

“It is a good and rewarding life,” he said, “but it is something that you have to like.”

Ballard was already married, he said, when he decided to go into the ministry. So he and his wife both worked while he finished his education.

After graduating from Anderson College with a bachelor of arts degree, and from Anderson School of Theology in 1969 with a master’s in divinity, he entered the Army. His first deployment was to Vietnam, where he served as chaplain for a year.

“That was one of the hardest years,” he went on. “It was the height of the Vietnam War, and of course I couldn’t take my family.

“After that, though, we were lucky. I was able to take my family to every other base at which I was stationed and there were quite a few.”

Ballard said he was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas; Ft. Lewis, Washington; Ft. Jackson, South Carolina; Germany; and Hawaii, to name a few. His jobs at these bases were varied;

“Sometimes I’d be the jail chaplain, or the hospital chaplain. Other times I’d serve several chapels during the week, or the servicemen’s families, where ever I was needed.”

He remembers his first baptism, Ballard said with a laugh.

“It was at the La Ngha River in Vietnam on Easter Sunday in 1970. I was baptizing five soldiers in the river when an elderly Vietnamese man and I suppose, his grandson, began to wash their oxen.

“When I lowered the men under the water, the boy looked over and nearly had hysterics — he thought I was drowning them.”

Ballard’s wife remembered the time when her husband’s office in the jail was behind seven locked gates.

“That was a little scary,” she said.

Ballard is happy with his years as an Army Chaplain, however.

“It is such a joy to see a young man, or woman for that matter, understand the scripture and embrace Christianity.

“I don’t know how many lives that have been changed just because I was there to help. I hope there were many.”

NAME: Rev. Basil “Buzz” Ballard.
AGE: 72.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: A job as pastor of Windsor Christian Church. I was chaplain at a military hospital in Hawaii when Mugsey Wilkins, another chaplain who took basic training with me, came to visit. He asked me what I wanted to do when I retired. Of course I said I wanted to preach. He told me that he knew of a church looking for a pastor and suggested that I give him my resume to submit, since his home was just a few miles away from the church. Well, I sent in my resume, was hired and spent 12 years there.
OCCUPATION: Retired Army chaplain and pastor.
HOMETOWN: Butlerville, Ohio.
MARITAL STATUS: I have been married to Grace for 54 years.
CHILDREN, AGES AND SCHOOLS: We have two sons. Christopher, 52, is a Brigadier General in the Army, and Stephen, 49, works in security and has a drafting company. Christopher has three sons and a daughter. Two of his boys, one is a captain and the other a lieutenant, are in the Army. His other son and his daughter are in college.
FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: Out to dinner with my wife, or playing cards with our friends.
FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Steak and a cup of good coffee.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Cazedores’ in Suffolk.
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: I was searched by the Russian KGB once, when my son, Stephen, and I were on a tour there. And no, I was not detained.
PETS: We have a black Lab named Cisco.
PET PEEVE: I dislike people who cruise in the passing lane.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As someone who cared and was a friend to everyone.
IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: I spent 25 years in the Army and I know how good it is to know that your country is supporting you. I would urge people to let those in the military know that our country is behind them, that they appreciate their sacrifices and are in their thoughts and prayers. I also would like to see Christians get over apathy in church. The congregation doesn’t seem to get excited about faith anymore. We need to worship God and make ourselves be heard.