FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- After decades of ministering to soldiers and their families, Fort Riley Garrison Chaplain Colonel Edwin Ahl is retiring.
A ceremony was held on post Thursday at Ware Parade Field.
Ahl leaves a group of only 24 active-duty soldiers in the Army who served in the Vietnam War. He also served in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Ahl began his military career in April 1969, when he joined the U.S. Navy as an electronic warfare specialist during the Vietnam War. He served a year in Vietnam, just 20 miles off the coast of Haiphong Harbor.
Ahl left the military in 1972. He decided to go to college, and he received his bachelor's degree in geography from Humboldt State University. Ahl said he realized he missed the military, however, and decided to join the National Guard. It was during his time in the National Guard, he said, when he believed God called him to become a chaplain.
Ahl received his master's of divinity degree in theology from Oral Roberts University during his time in the National Guard. A few years later, in January 1988, Ahl returned to active duty as a chaplain for the U.S. Army. He also went on to receive his doctorate in theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary.
During Operation Desert Storm, Ahl served with the 87th Maintenance Battalion from December 1991 to May 1992.
"I’ve been aviation, I’ve been artillery, I’ve been engineer, I’ve been corps support, I’ve been heavy infantry, light infantry, airborne infantry so God put me where he waned me... From the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq, from Germany to Korea and about 34 other countries, I’ve totally enjoyed my time as an Army Chaplain. It’s been a blessing. You soldiers, you family members- you have a special place in God’s heart and that’s the truth," Ahl told the crowd gathered at his retirement ceremony.
Brigadier General Donald MacWillie, Fort Riley's Senior Commander, told Ahl during the ceremony: "The key is that you’re loved and at the end of a magnificent career serving your nation, all we can do is say thank you. We’re going to pin a medal on your chest but I know that means little to you because what matters to you is the care and the compassion that you’ve given to us and our families over the years. Thank you so very much for what you’ve done for us. Thank you for being here with us. Thank you for serving in uniform since 1969 and for never giving up on your nation and setting a standard that has led to a legacy for the thousands of soldiers and hundreds of chaplains that will continue to serve our soldiers."
"I’m blessed for having served my country and my God for so long. I look back at my wife and kids and all of the anniversaries and birthdays and Christmases that I missed because of being gone down range and then all of the support my family gives me and it’s emotional. I look out and I see the troops and their families and they’re the mainstay. I will always remember them because of what they do for our country and I will pray for them always. I’m going to miss them," Colonel Ahl told 13 News.
"I’m going to take away a lifetime of love, honor and service that hopefully others will take from as well, trying to be an example. In the military, leaders lead by example. They set the standard and I hope younger chaplains or even younger soldiers, because I spent fourteen years enlisted, other soldiers will have the same kind of enthusiasm to serve and better their country and themselves as they go through their careers," he added.
Ahl and his Family are planning on retiring in Fayetteville, N.C. He also said he is looking at teaching in the local area.