“When you are in the chaplaincy, you quickly sort out the difference between deeply held convictions and personal preference,” says Browne, who retires in May after 20 years of active duty and eight years in the reserves. He visited the GARBC Resource Center in March and reflected on his life in the military.
“Half my life was spent with an ID card in my back pocket,” Browne says, recalling how his travels have taken him to Korea, Turkey, Hungary, and what he calls a “hardship assignment” at Hickam AFB in Hawaii.
But it was his assignment at Altus AFB in Oklahoma that was the most memorable—here he adopted his son, Will.
“I told God, ‘I can’t do this. I’m single, I’m in the ministry, I’m in the service.’ But God looked at all of those excuses and said, ‘That’s not going to work!’ ”
Browne admits he had been thinking about adoption for some time. With a degree in social work, he had worked as a houseparent for adjudicated children and later was director of the Ohio Veterans’ Children’s Home.
“When I made the decision to adopt Will, all I had was a picture and a file folder. But I was a former social worker who knew how to read his case file, and I went into it with my eyes open.”
“Will had just turned seven. I did a presentation in his class about what it means to be an Air Force chaplain—he didn’t know I was really there to see him—and then the social worker took us out to lunch.”
For all those who question the wisdom of a single person adopting a child, Browne looks past the questions and reminds anyone who cares to listen about the antifamily values of what he calls “the nanny state system.”
“The foster care system is broken; it fails miserably,” says Browne, who minces no words when reflecting on the tragedy. “We need to be thinking in terms of ‘How do we get kids out of that arena?’ The system is run by money. When the government has a system that is fee based, some will always be in it for the money.”
“There are anywhere from 150 to 250 thousand kids in foster care at any given time,” Browne says. “The system is fraught with flaws and gives the children no sense of permanency. As a result, foster kids develop a hard shell, an anti-associative disorder.”
And Chaplain Kevin Browne is grateful for all he has learned after becoming a father. “I had raised 450 kids as a social worker, but there are some things you don’t learn how to do until you work with a child who shares your last name.”
Speaking of the career advancements and promotions he passed up after adopting, Kevin says, “This has worked because I have an incredible support system with people who share my priorities. The families at the base chapel fight over who will take care of Will when I go out of town. I’m grateful for those who share my same convictions.”
Browne advises potential parents to seek the will of God before considering foster care, saying the decision is just like becoming a pastor. “Unless God has called you to do this, don’t do it. This is the most difficult job you will ever love!”
Looking toward his life after the military, Browne plans to remain in Cheyenne for a year until Will graduates from high school. Then he hopes to work toward a lifelong dream of starting a Christian boarding school for at-risk children.
Browne’s retirement leaves only one GARBC endorsed chaplain in the Air Force, a concern to Browne. “My time is over, and we need new blood. This is a good time for evangelicals to look at the chaplaincy. The more liberal denominations by and large are not sending men to the military because they are not pro military.”
Browne’s military career concludes with a service on May 14. “It’s not a retirement service; it’s a worship service,” Browne says. “It’s never been about me; it is about the glory of God.”
Kevin Mungons is managing editor of the Baptist Bulletin.