Stroud returns after 26 years in military

POULSBO — Robert Stroud is swinging his way into retirement with hammer in hand. The former Air Force chaplain isn’t sitting back and taking it easy, with painting and flooring projects already on his to-do list.

But what Stroud is really looking forward to during his retirement years is writing. Confessing an affinity for historical and theological nonfiction, Stroud already has two books in the works, and a mind full of history nearly as abundant as his military family’s past. A graduate of North Kitsap High School and pastor ordained in Poulsbo’s First Lutheran Church in 1981, Stroud has traversed the world for the cause of faith and patriotism. Now back in the Northwest and nearing his official Dec. 1 retirement, he’s leaving the deployments and overseas postings to the next generation of military chaplains and enjoying being home with his family.

“We always felt that this is home,” Stroud said. “We succeeded with something that most military families don’t. That was providing a real sense of home to our children.”

Stroud, his wife and their three children have lived in various postings around the U.S. and the world, including Montgomery, Ala., Lubbock, Texas and Guam.

“God saw fit to let us be stationed in a lot of awfully hot places,” he joked.

But no matter where they were stationed, Stroud said it was always the Northwest they missed most.

“We always have compared the beauty of every place we’ve lived with the beauty of the Puget Sound area, and every place has come up short,” he said.

Stroud is a veteran of the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism, and has received various Joint Service and Air Force medals, as well as decorations from the Army and Navy. He served in ten assignments during his career and was handpicked to work as the Religious Programming Coordinator for the American Forces Radio and Television Service, where he coordinated religious programming for Americans overseas. Stroud also served as an instructor at the USAF Chaplain Service Institute, editing the Air Force Chaplain Service official publication and speech writing for two different Chiefs of Chaplains. The lieutenant colonel served his final assignment as the senior chaplain at Edwards AFB in California.

“Having grown up in a military family, I always had a patriotic kind of a sentiment,” the fourth generation military member said of choosing to enter the Armed Forces. “I had that sensibility and desire to serve my country.”

Stroud said while his years spent stationed in Guam — during which he helped relocate thousands of Kurdish refugees and witnessed Super Typhoon Paka and the Korean Air Flight 801 crash that killed nearly 230 people — were some of his most memorable, it was his year spent in Korea in the late ‘80s that proved most difficult, as his family could not join him.

“That was really hard because of the fact it was pre-Internet days,” he said. He was given one 15-minute morale call each month, and wrote letters to his wife and kids daily.

“The people today with all the communication links that we have, it’s like heaven,” he said. “Family separations are never easy, but they’re much less painful now.”

Stroud’s wife, Delores, also a graduate of NKHS, worked as a music teacher and special education teacher. She will teach functional academics at the new Kingston High School this fall.

Though Stroud said the idea of not wearing a uniform sounds both liberating and strange, he will still keep his fellow servicemen and women at heart, and hopes that during the country’s time at war others will do so also. But for now, he is simply relishing being back with those he loves.

“Family is the most important thing,” he said. “It is good to be home.”

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