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Chaplain Ministers to Many Faiths

Written By Marine Corps Cpl. Kenneth Jasik
1st Marine Logistics Group

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Navy Chaplain (Capt.) Michael A. Mikstay was just a small boy when he first heard the calling to become a priest.


Navy Chaplain (Capt.) Michael A. Mikstay, 56, was a civilian Catholic priest in Ohio until he decided to join the Navy’s Chaplain Corps in 1992. U.S. Marine Corps photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“I began to be interested in priesthood in second grade,” said Mikstay, a Canton, Ohio, native who serves here as the head chaplain of the 1st Marine Logistics Group. “I went to Catholic school, and I saw the priests very involved in the lives of people.

“At that point, I thought that would be a wonderful thing to do,” he continued, “and I believe as I got older, that calling and attraction got stronger and was affirmed by numerous people.”

Mikstay, now 56, realized his dream, and served as a civilian priest for several years, until the first Gulf War.

“I had been a priest in the town of Poland, Ohio, and we had a number of parishioners whose family members were being activated in reserve and Guard units,” Mikstay said. “It became a very difficult time, so I felt a need to respond to the crisis that the nation and the world was experiencing.”

Mikstay, then 37, joined the Navy’s Chaplain Corps in 1992. He was too late for Operation Desert Storm, but he found himself in the middle of a different fight just a few months later.

“My first unit was with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — we went to Somalia,” he said. “Six months out of chaplain’s school, in downtown Mogadishu, I found myself praying, ‘Oh God, what did I do?'”

In Somalia, Mikstay traveled between his ship and forward operating bases in the region to provide services, along with religious and spiritual guidance and counseling.

“I had a whole lot of opportunity to get around,” Mikstay said. “I went around with all aspects of the MEU.” In addition to providing religious services, Mikstay said, he helped to distribute food and water to residents of Somalia.

After service with the 24th MEU and Somalia, Mikstay served with 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Serving in the military has helped his growth as a priest, Mikstay said.

“[My service in Somalia] set the stage for my life in the military,” he explained. “Being at the MEU level was a great experience, and it allowed me to be involved in many of the operations that the Marine Corps is involved in.

“Civilian ministry and military ministry are different in many ways,” he continued. “Civilian ministry is geared toward a denomination, church or parish. Military chaplains serve people of all faiths.”

Mikstay may be a Catholic priest, but as a Navy chaplain he facilitates religious services for troops of all beliefs.

“When you get down to it, the primary reason we have military chaplains in any of the services is because our nation is adamant about the fact that we provide for the free exercise of religion,” Mikstay said. “It’s one of our constitutional rights to be able to exercise our religion, and chaplains are here to guarantee that, regardless of what faith you believe in, or even if you have no faith whatsoever.”

Mikstay said becoming a Navy chaplain is a calling, much like the priesthood, noting he enjoys sharing his experiences.

“It’s a response to your faith,” he said. “At this point, I’ve been promoted to a position that is supervisory, so I now have an opportunity to pass on to younger chaplains and [religious program specialists] my experiences and knowledge.”

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About Posted by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer. In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials. Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat. Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republicanand The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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