CUMMING — A longtime Forsyth County resident has returned home after retiring from a distinguished career as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.
Lt. Col Randal Robison’s official retirement ceremony was held last month at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon.
Robison, a Texas native whose 27-year career took him across the country and to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Korea, said he was thankful for his time serving the spiritual needs of soldiers.
“One of the definite highlights were the baptisms that occurred during war time, where we had people making decisions for their lives in a time where there is a lot of uncertainty,” Robison said.
“The other thing too is an opportunity to provide ministries to soldiers and their families. There were a lot of hurting areas.”
During a 2004 deployment to Iraq, his baptismal duties increased the longer they were there.
“When we first got there, I think within the first three months, we had one, then we had two … toward the end, I think it was something like 19 soldiers that went through baptism,” Robison said. “We seemed to have more toward the second half of the deployment.
“I think that had to do with a number of them losing friends, and it gave them a chance start looking at their own lives.”
As part of his duties, Robison also oversaw military funerals, including those at the nation’s most renowned military cemetery.
“I was able to serve at Arlington National Cemetery while I was in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “That was a very strong honor to be there at Arlington National Cemetery for those military funerals, to be a part of that.”
According to Robison, the roots of his career took hold while working at a homeless shelter following graduation from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
“While I was there, I definitely was always in prayer for the next directions and guidance that the Lord would have,” Robison said. “… I actually enlisted to go in as a chaplain’s assistant, as a young private back in 1989, and I immediately felt a real connection to the military, to the chaplain corps as a whole.”
After his first enlistment, Robison attended Western Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and stayed in the reserves as a chaplain candidate before being selected as a full-time chaplain in 1997.
Robison and his wife, Claudia, have four children. In 2004, when he was scheduled for transfer from South Carolina to Korea, the couple decided to buy a home in Forsyth Country to be closer to family.
Robison said the birth of their second son, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome, also factored in their decision.
“Of course here in Forsyth County, there is an excellent, excellent school district … especially around the special needs program,” he said. “So I’ve kind of kept my family in one place as I was the one to go to different locations for deployments and such, and part of that allowed for stability of [my son’s] education.”
He said the attention his son received and the support the school system provided the family influenced his plans for retirement.
“I am looking to begin Brenau University in May of this year with a master of arts in teaching degree program focusing on special needs education,” Robison said.