Robert Crossan

The Difference
Chaplain Robert Crossan, CAPT, USN

“A Chaplain’s effectiveness lies not in the fact that people come to them but that the Chaplain goes out to the people. If you go out to the workspace, and you start chatting with people, they’ll come to you with some of their deepest problems.”
— Chaplain Robert Crossan, CAPT, USN

For 27 years, Chaplain Robert Crossan has served a young, agile and dedicated parish. It’s a far cry from the small, static congregation he served for more than three years right after he was ordained in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in 1982.

He recalls showing up for his first day on the job. “The CO (Commanding Officer), a big tough Marine, said Welcome aboard, Chaplain. Throw your pack on. We’re going on a hump. Before I knew what hit me, I was making a long hike with my battalion. I was hitting the ground running from day one.”

Since entering Active Duty in the Navy Chaplain Corps in 1985, he has served the spiritual needs of Marines and Sailors on the battlefield, aboard ships and on base everywhere he was needed. From locations stateside all the way to Japan, Guam, Singapore, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s a completely different demographic,” he says. “We’re always dealing with younger people. And the older I get, the more I realize just how young they are.”

But the difference in Crossan’s ministry involves far more than the age, location or active nature of his parishioners. “Here, you’re dealing with people who are daily in a life-and-death business,” he explains. “Who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice every single day that they’re in uniform.”

It’s a compelling and challenging dynamic – one that makes the results that much more rewarding. And for Crossan, trust is never granted. It’s earned. And ministry, the kind that truly impacts lives, is rarely planned. It just happens.

When it does, he has the high honor of demonstrating the quiet, yet supremely powerful presence of God. Those are the times, too many to count, that live in Crossan’s mind and help clarify his career. They are the times when everything crystallizes and he knows beyond a reasonable doubt that his work matters. God matters.

“As far as the heart and soul, the guts of what you do, it’s still a matter of being there with your people, wherever they are. Experiencing everything they experience. Being present to them and present with them. And always pointing beyond yourself to God.”

In 27 years, it’s the one thing that has not changed.

Crossan currently serves as Navy Region Southwest Chaplain in California. He and his wife of 27 years have two adult children, and he enjoys racquetball, scuba diving, writing and collecting coins.

Waiting For Their Boy To Come Back

“One group that I had a deep and profound concern for were the Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians. They were part of 1st Marine Logistics Group; they were my guys. Every single day they’d wake up in the morning and their job was to go out and find Improvised Explosive Devices. You make a mistake…you can imagine.

You don’t get into that club easily, especially as a Chaplain. I put the word out: Any of my people gets hurt or killed, you call me. I don’t care what time it is.

I got the call at 3:30 a.m. It was a bitterly cold winter night in Afghanistan. I threw on my uniform, jumped in my vehicle, and joined the CO of these EOD techs and their Senior Enlisted, and we stood outside, just the three of us, shivering and freezing, until the remains of this fallen technician arrived.

Saying I want to be there for you doesn’t mean anything. But you stand there in the freezing cold for two hours with them, waiting for their boy to come back, and that opens doors and builds relationships in ways that you can’t quantify.”

— Chaplain Robert Crossan, CAPT, USN