When he was 17 years old, Rick England asked his mother to let him enlist in the Army. Thirty-four years later, that decision has proven a good one.
England retired from the U.S. Army Reserve in October. At that time, he received The Legion of Merit award and The Order of St. Martin of Tours award. Most of his time in the military was serving in the chaplaincy.
“I started off in the Army band, on active duty,” England said. “Then I got out, went to college, and came back into the reserves as a chaplain’s assistant. For four years, I was an operations and training sergeant. The majority of my time, 26 years, was as a chaplain’s assistant. My final assignment was at the office of the chief chaplains at the Pentagon.”
His work has taken him all over the world.
“Most of my adult life I’ve been a pastor,” he said, “serving on staff at different churches. I’ve been in Washington, Oregon, Ohio and Alaska. We went to Thailand as missionaries, then back to Oregon. The whole time I was in the reserves.
“When I went to Afghanistan in 2013-14, I came back and resigned my position at the church I had been at for five years. I thought I would be able to quickly and easily find a new position. That didn’t work so well. I ended up going to the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. I taught military science and leadership. I did that for a year and the position was eliminated. The only other position I could find was here in Roswell, so we moved here. I taught military science and leadership, to senior ROTC. Now, I’m the leadership and character development administrator/adviser. I do leadership training for cadets. I train the leaders at each level.”
England sees a strong parallel in his military and his ministry careers. In both, he served, supported and taught a variety of people.
“I’ve served in churches from 75 people to 800 in different parts of the U.S.,” he said. “Going to Thailand was a special two years. We worked mainly with children there. We worked in an orphanage. We taught English to the children there. I taught choir and band in middle school and high school in Alaska.
“On the military side, the highlight was serving in Afghanistan. I was the Theater Religious Support Sergeant Major. I was in charge of all chaplain assistants in the military. We had about 200 chaplains and about 175 chaplain assistants. I got the opportunity to travel throughout the country and to meet the people. I would like to go back when there’s no war going on.”
His work in the Army Reserve gave him the opportunity to work with a variety of active units all over the world.
“They have regular reserve units,” England said. “Then they have IMAs, Individual Mobilization Augmentees. These are assigned to active duty units to augment their staff. I had the opportunity to do that with four different units. I was at the chaplain’s office at Fort Huachuca, Arizona for two years. Then I went to the third special forces group at Ft. Bragg. I’d leave Alaska at 40 below and go to Carolina at 50 above.
“At the age of 40, I had the opportunity to go to jump school. I’d always wanted to do it when I was younger. The majority of people there were between 18 and 20. They called me Grampa. I was in fairly good shape. It was a lot of fun and a big accomplishment at that age.
“The next unit I’d worked with was the U.S. Army, Japan. I’d go every year for a month and do my reserve time in the mainland and also in Okinawa. Sandra was able to come over from Thailand one time.”
England met his wife in Kirkland, Washington, where they both attended college.
“We met in college,” he said, “in the Seattle area. We went to Northwest University. We met at church first. The relationship developed in college. That was in 1979. We got married in September of 1980. We have four children and 11 grandchildren, with number 12 coming in May.”
They’re enjoying the life they’re building in Roswell.
“I’m part of Leadership Roswell,” England said. “I’m enjoying that. I tend to be a relational person, so I enjoy the ability to get to know all these people. I play in the community band. We’ve had the opportunity, wherever we have lived, to make it our home. We’ve adapted to whatever kind of place it is. We’ve always sought to make it a home.”
One way they enjoy meeting new people is with Sandra’s Airbnb business.
“We have two rooms upstairs that she rents,” England said. “We have people come in from all over the world. We enjoy leaving a copy of the newspaper out for people. Some of them will read it and engage us in conversation about Roswell.”
Sandra spoke of her husband’s accomplishments and his clear vision for their future.
“His goal was to retire as an E9,” she said, “so that we’d have a retirement, and he accomplished that. I appreciate that it was a goal for him as a reservist. All through that time, we got to travel and be a part of a lot of different things.
“In October, when we had his retirement in D.C., his mother was able to come. She got to see all that he has done over these 34 years, and the honor that they bestowed upon him at the ceremony.”
For Rick, it seemed more a matter of knowing what he wanted to do.
“Both the military and ministry have been fruitful and enjoyable,” he said. “Two different paths but similar. Both involve working with people.”
The one thing he did, in his mind, is what he advises everybody to do.
“Chase after what you want to accomplish.”