As a young man growing up on Army bases, Chester "Chet" Egert learned multiple lessons about service.

The son and grandson of soldiers, Egert learned at an early age what it took to be a member of the armed forces.

Egert's father, Phillip Egert, enlisted at the age of 20, in 1949 in the army. He was selected to go to officer candidate school at Fort Riley, and later artillery school at Ft. Sill.

Philip Egert served for 18 months in the Korean Conflict. He stayed in the service for 24 years, retiring when Egert was 17.

Egert's grandfather, Chester William Egert, joined the army as a chaplain and served during World War II.

Egert said his grandfather was serving in a church, when more than 40 young men from the congregation were called up to serve. After their final Sunday at home, Egert told his family he planned to join the army to serve alongside those men.

Chester William Egert was part of the second wave of soldiers, on June 7, 1944, to arrive on Omaha Beach. He served for a total of 13 years in the army before being medically discharged. 

At first, "Chet" Egert thought he would become a missionary, studying Spanish throughout his junior high and high school years.

In high school, and later as a college student at Oral Roberts University, Egert began exploring other options.

At that time, Egert said he begin to feel a calling on his life to serve in the military.

As a first year student at the Assembly of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, Egert joined the Army Reserves. 

When he graduated, four years later, he went into the army as a full-time chaplain. 

Egert said he knowing that God called him to that vocation, to minister to soldiers in a variety of locations, helped him during the challenging times of his career.

Speaking to students

It is from those experiences, as well as the experiences of his father and grandfather, that Egert will draw from as he addresses those attending the 2018 Veterans Day Assembly at Grove High School.

The assembly is set for 9:30 a.m. in the Performing Arts Center. The event is coordinated by Joseph Wilhelm, high school band instructor, and event chairman.

"I hope the students walk away with an appreciation for what Veterans did, and an appreciation for what the older veterans sacrificed for their country," Egert said. "Veterans Day si a day to remember and thank those who served."

More about Egert

Egert, who retired as a Colonel after 31 years of active duty, moved to Grove in 2014 with his wife, Rhoda, to be near her parents Albert and Aase Lade. 

Egert and his wife have two adult daughters.

Kristina and her husband, Jeris Durene live at Ft. Lewis Washington, where he serves as an army captain. They have two boys: Liam, 7, and Jonathan, 4. 

Elena and her husband, Cameron LaVallie, reside in Grove. They have three children: Asher, 4, Uriah 2, and Cozette, 3 months.

Since retirement, Egert serves as one of the organizers of the annual Veterans Reunion, which takes place each September at Crossroads Church in rural Grove.

About his service

During his career he served in a variety of positions from battalion chaplain to Division Chaplain, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky to XVIII Airborne Corps Chaplain, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

In 2011 served as the Multi-National Forces-Iraq Command Chaplain in Iraq. He also conducted operational tours in Somalia and Haiti.

Serving as a chaplain for four years in the reserves and 30 years in active duty, with travels through 39 countries, left Egert with one specific thought.

"I learned America is the greatest country on the earth," Egert said. "Without a doubt, America is the greatest country. 

"We may not be the most powerful, but we have the greatest freedoms, and the greatest opportunity to do anything. The sky's the limit for what we can do."

Egert said many in this country take for granted freedoms found within the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, including freedom of religion, press and assembly.

"A lot of nations don't have those things, but we do," Egert said. "That type of freedom is priceless."

Egert said, like former President Ronald Reagan, he believes that freedom is earned - not given - to each generation.

"There's no guarantee that our children or our children's children won't have the freedoms taken away," Egert said. "Freedom isn't so free as much as it is a treasure, which we here in America should safeguard.

"Every generation has to safeguard the freedom."

As a chaplain, Egert said he not only had the opportunity to serve his country, but also his soldiers.

"It was the best of both worlds," Egert said. "I got to serve God, then the nation's soldiers. I got to serve with America's finest young men and women. 

"There were many days I was just amazed I got paid to do the thing I loved."

As a chaplain, Egert learned there was nowhere, within the world he could go that God wasn't present.

He said this lesson came after landing at Mogadishu, Somalia in the dead of night, without electricity beyond Army generators at the airport, and during a tropical monsoon. 

"When I arrived in 1993, the Somali people were fighting a war, experiencing famine and there was fighting between the clans," Egert said. "My first thought it was the most God-forsaken place I'd seen in my life. And that was after serving in poverty stricken places around the world.

"But within six months, I realized God was there and God was there before I got there."

He likens his experience to Jacob, who in the Old Testament wrestled with someone, only to discover it was God all along. 

"God was in this place and I didn't know it," Egert said. "I realized then there was no place I could go, that God would wasn't with me or my troops."

After his experience in Somalia, Egert said he knew he could serve God and soldiers anywhere in the world.

"It was a life changing thing for me," Egert said. "God was before me, God was with me. I learned God's got this.

"The situation might not be as planned, but God has a plan."

Other life lessons, Egert said he learned while serving his country included learning what was truly important in life. 

"You learn what matters," Egert said. "Here in the U.S., material things are what matters. It's [good] to have a nice car, home.

"But when you get down to it, having your family, your health and your loved ones, that's what is important. Those are the things we treasure most. You can't put any amount of money on that."

Egert said that was a message he often saw lived out in his soldiers, as they coped with the realities of battle. 

He said many learned to serve others, and God, and at the end of the day, life continued to have meaning.

If You Go

High School/Mid School Assembly

Chet Egert will be the guest speaker during the 2018 Veterans Day Assembly on Friday, Nov. 9, at in the Grove High School Performing Arts Center.

Chester “Chet” Egert (U.S. Army, Retired ) served in a variety of positions from battalion chaplain to Division Chaplain, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky to XVIII Airborne Corps Chaplain, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

In 2011 he was the Multi-National Forces-Iraq Command Chaplain in Iraq. He also conducted operational tours in Somalia and Haiti.

The event begins with a breakfast for veterans and their families, followed by the assembly. Veterans are asked to gather in the high school library at 8:45 a.m., for presentation of certificates and breakfast. The assembly will begin at 9:30 a.m., in the performing arts center.

A shuttle will be provided beginning at 8:30 a.m., from the Cinema Six Theatre parking lot. Veterans are asked to contact the high school office at 918-786-2207 ext. 1000 by 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 7, with a number of how many will be attending in their group.