Air Force family knows the meaning of service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vincent Borden
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
When he was younger, Chaplain (Capt.) John Shipman, senior protestant chaplain at the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, learned the lessons of service and hard work with his five older brothers on a farm in Wisconsin. There, while milking cows, plowing and baling hay, they were taught the meaning of hard work, the enormity of handling responsibility and the value of service.

It seems those childhood lessons have stuck with all six of them throughout their lives.

In early August, one of Captain Shipman's brothers, Maj. Michael Shipman, will celebrate his retirement from the Air Force after more than 20-years of service, just like his four older brothers celebrated before him, and his father celebrated before them.

Divided among members of the family, the Shipmans have over 150 years of military service. Chaplain Shipman, the youngest of the six, has served 19 years. By the end of August, he will be the sole Shipman family member still serving in uniform, the last of a generational legacy of service and commitment to country.

The chaplain certainly understands the significance of it all; but even more importantly, he understands whom it started with.

"My father was a guide for all of us," said Chaplain Shipman. "He spent 20 years in the Air Force and retired as a master sergeant in 1973. He didn't [tell us to] join; I don't think he said that to any of us. But if we asked, he would share insights into what the military was about."

"Growing up on the farm certainly taught us responsibility and hard work. And the vision translated to all six of us, because all six of us have excelled," the chaplain said.

Those insights brought brothers Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Shipman, the oldest, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Shipman, Master Sgt. Scott Shipman, Senior Master Sgt. Bryce Shipman, Maj. Michael Shipman and Chaplain Shipman into a life filled with purpose, one centered on the value of service to a cause higher than their own.

Each of the Shipman brothers, who started out their careers as enlisted members, found a cause in the Air Force they could dedicate their lives to; for Major Shipman, his work as a physician's assistant allowed him the opportunity to tend to the health of other Air Force members, something he found rewarding every day. For Chaplain Shipman, his work as a chaplain is something he regards as satisfying on many levels.

"I feel like this is the most demanding and satisfying job in the world," said Chaplain Shipman, who is deployed from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. "The interaction with people, being able to share what is most intimate in their life and their struggles, and give them insight into their life and hope for their journey, in a spiritual way, is fulfilling."

In what amounts to yet another display of service before desire in line with his three previous deployments and remote tour to Turkey, Chaplain Shipman will celebrate the 20-year service retirement of his brother while deployed in Southwest Asia, away in body, but not in heart.

But he also understands that he may have the opportunity to congratulate him for his service in person again someday.

"Service doesn't stop in the military, and I know clearly that his service won't end when he takes off the uniform and puts on civilian life," said Chaplain Shipman. "Once a servant with vision, always a servant of vision. [My brothers] are all doing great things in their communities, and I'm very proud of them."

As the last one of his family left in uniform, Chaplain Shipman offered congratulations and appreciation to his brother for his service.

"Service and sacrifice are a part of the military life," said Chaplain Shipman. "It is essential to accomplish the mission. Thank you for your willingness to serve and to make a difference. And personally ... thank you for being my brother, and supporting me."

As for Chaplain Shipman, the jury is still out on whether his 20-year service anniversary will mark an end to a generational legacy, or whether he'll stay a bit longer.

"That would be God's call," said Chaplain Shipman.