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AG Military Chaplain Demonstrates Selfless Love on the Battlefield

While serving overseas, AG Chaplain Ric Brown modeled the spirit of Christ to his fellow soldiers, even amidst one of the most horrific battles in recent U.S. history.
Seeing some of the most beautiful displays of love, grace, and sacrifice that he had ever seen was not what Medal of Honor recipient SSG David Bellavia, 48, expected to witness in the midst of war. However, AG Chaplain Ric Brown humbly showed the love of Jesus even while on the battlefield, eternally impacting countless lives. 

Brown is a third generation Assemblies of God minister from both sides of his family. At ten years old, he knew that God was calling him to do ministry within the boundaries of the United States military. Although he did not know what a chaplain was at the time, when he became a teenager, Brown knew that God was specifically calling him to that role.

When he was 17 years old, Brown joined the Army as a National Guard soldier. In 1999 he accessioned onto Active Duty. He retired in 2022 with over 38 years of service. Licensed as an AG minister in 1991, it wasn’t until 1993 that he began serving in his chaplaincy role.

In 2002, Brown was assigned to serve as a chaplain in 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Germany until, in 2004 his unit was deployed for 13 months to Iraq.

In Brown’s unit was Bellavia, an NCO who was not interested in having anything to do with his unit’s chaplain.

“I had no use for a chaplain,” Bellavia recalls. “I didn’t want to have a relationship with him because you go to your chaplain when you have a problem.”

Bellavia described his idea of what a chaplain’s role was as “making sure people are stress free, making sure people are getting healthy and staying healthy.”

Yet his first observation of Brown’s importance to his unit came one night when soldiers from an ally army were engaging in behavior that Brown found inappropriate. When he asked the soldiers to stop, they started to give some resistance. Bellavia states that immediately several U.S. soldiers stood up and defended Brown.

“It was then that I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is beloved,’ and I automatically saw him in a different light,” Bellavia states.

Once in Iraq, Brown and Bellavia’s unit fought in Operation Phantom Fury, also known as the Second Battle of Fallujah; the bloodiest battle that had been seen involving the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. During the battle, the U.S. military lost 151 men and more than 1,000 were injured.

“It was the largest and most significant battle in Iraq,” Brown states. “But I couldn’t ask my soldiers to trust what I had to say if I didn’t go out on patrols. How could I ask them to believe in God if I was too scared to put my life on the line?”

So even though he remained unarmed, as is customary for chaplains, Brown travelled as often as he could with men from his unit.

It was such brave and selfless acts out on the battlefield that spoke the loudest to Bellavia. He recalls Brown serving in tough situations, even when he didn’t have to.

“After men were injured or killed in vehicles, we still had to use those vehicles and it was really hard to get in there with all of the blood,” says Bellavia. “But Brown would get in and scrub the vehicles clean so that the soldiers didn’t have to get in when it was covered with the blood of their comrades.”

“You’re the only Jesus some people see,” Brown states, “and the impact you have isn’t always with words. It comes in the everyday living. It was through observing how I lived my life and how I reacted to life that created the relationship I have with [Bellavia] to this day.”

After returning to the United States, it would be nearly 10 years before Bellavia was recognized for his incredible bravery during the war. However, when the time came in 2019, Bellavia became the only living soldier to receive a Medal of Honor for service in the Iraq War.

At his award ceremony, Bellavia requested that his unit, who he refers to as part of his family, all stand with him for the presentation. Among those invited was Brown.

“I believe now that you absolutely must have a chaplain. It’s more than a ceremonial job, it is a member of the team. You have to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually ready to fight,” states Bellavia. “I never thought in a combat situation, in some of the worst moments of my life, I would see love, mercy, sacrifice, and grace, but Brown did that for me.”

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.