Military Veteran/Prison Chaplain Exemplifies Service and Sacrifice

If I Were a Shepherd, I Would Give a Lamb

Have you ever known a person that just keeps GIVING and GIVING?  You know, the kind of person that gives their ALL?  The kind of person that never seems to run out of energy, excitement, enthusiasm and devotion?  Like a certain battery-operated bunny on TV commercials, they just keep GOING and GOING and GOING!  Well, Chaplain Vera Rhyne is just that kind of person!

Just recently, the “Powhatan Today”newspaper did a story that included a piece about Chaplain Rhyne.  On November 12, 2022, the Powhatan County Branch of the NAACP held a special Veteran’s Day program.  As part of the program, the veterans that were present lined up and marched in together.  Each of the veterans were then allowed a few moments to speak and introduce themselves and talk about the branch of the military in which they served. 

Chaplain Rhyne talked about her father, who served first in the Navy and then as a Marine.  She then spoke about her own decision to join the Army.  She talked about the differences between her father’s experiences and her own and about how so many opportunities had opened up for women in the military over the years.  Chaplain Rhyne said, “I am thankful because I saw the proud look on my father’s face when pinning the bar on his baby girl – something he did not see in his own time when he was serving.”  Chaplain Rhyne further shared that one of the proudest moments of her life came in 2011, when she accepted the Congressional Gold Medal post-humously in her father’s honor for contributions he and other Montford Point Marines made so many decades earlier.  “See, they had determined to accept a challenge that changed the course of history and to pave the way for me and for others who came from all walks of life. But these men had to fight the fight for the right to fight,” said Chaplain Rhyne. “Some paid the ultimate SACRIFICE by laying down their LIFE for this country.”   

Rev. Dr. Vera A. Rhyne was born in Quantico, VA and raised in Jacksonville, NC.  She is a 1974 cum laude graduate of Shaw University in Raleigh, NC, having earned a B.A. in World History.  In 2003, she earned her Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from the Virginia Union School of Theology in Richmond, VA.  Vera Rhyne also received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity (D.D.) degree from Virginia Triumphant College & Seminary in 2013.  Rev Rhyne was licensed in the preaching ministry in April 1974 and then became a fully ordained minister in 1982.  She has pastored churches in California (Sacramento), Alabama (Fort McClellan) and in Virginia.  She served as the Interim Pastor (and first female Pastor) of Broad Rock Baptist Church in Richmond, VA for over two years (1998-2000).  She served as the Pastor of First Antioch Baptist Church in Powhatan, VA from 2011 to 2017 (and was the first female Pastor to serve a church in Powhatan County).  Rev. Rhyne also served as a religious volunteer at the San Quentin Men’s Prison and the Wetumpka Women’s Prison, both in California.

Vera was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Womens Army Corp in 1972.  She went on to serve as a Logistics Officer in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1983.  Then from 1983 to 1995 Vera served in the U.S. Army Reserves, retiring as a Major. In June of 2010, Vera retired from the Defense Logistics Agency (Defense Supply Center – Richmond, VA) – with over 33 years of military/federal serviceVera also received the “keys to the city” of Anniston, AL in 1993.

Vera was deployed overseas four times.  From January through June of 2003 she was deployed to Kosovo.  She served as Pastor of the Gospel Services at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo – where she ministered not only to American soldiers, but also to soldiers from Britain, Sweden and Hungary.  From October 2004 through April 2005, Vera was deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  She was part of the Chaplaincy Staff for the Camp Afrijan Gospel Service.  Rev. Rhyne also had a second 6-month deployment to Kuwait/Iraq in December 2007.  She served as the leader for a team of five ministers that ministered to the wounded and injured soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.  She completed a fourth and final deployment from July 2009 through January 2012 in Iraq.  There Rev. Rhyne was an active minister in the Camp Taji Gospel Service Ministry.

Rev. Vera Rhyne has served as a Virginia state prison Chaplain with GraceInside (formerly Chaplain Service) for nearly 19 years – with a few temporary “breaks” due to deployments, etc.  Rev. Rhyne began as the Chaplain for James River Correctional Center and James River Work Center (both now closed) in March 2004.  While at James River, Chaplain Rhyne initiated a program (in coordination with Goodwill of Central VA) that provided suits to inmates being released to the Richmond area.  Also while at James River, Chaplain Rhyne was instrumental in the formation and implementation of a Faith-Based Reentry (FBRE) Program (that began as a pilot program of Prison Fellowship Ministries but later was fully taken on by GraceInside).  When James River Corr. Ctr. closed, the FBRE Program moved across the James River to the (then) Deep Meadow Correctional Center (now State Farm Correctional Center), where Chaplain Rhyne began serving as the FBRE Program Manager in April 2015.  Then from March 2016 through February 2017, Rev. Rhyne served as the Full-Time Chaplain at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW).  After a very brief “retirement”, Rev. Rhyne returned to GraceInside first as Interim Chaplain (Aug. 2017) and then as the permanent Chaplain at Deep Meadow Corr. Ctr. (June 2018) – with the Dept. of Corrections later renaming the facility State Farm Correctional Center.  In the midst of all this, Rev. Rhyne took on yet another assignment, this time as Chaplain of the DOC Secure Care Unit at VCU Medical Center in downtown Richmond, VA.  Numerous structural changes took place with the State Farm Correctional Complex between 2018 and the present (with Chaplain Rhyne at one time covering State Farm Corr. Ctr., the State Farm Infirmary, the State Farm Infirmary Annex, the State Farm Enterprise Unit and the State Farm [then Men’s] Work Center) – along with her continued work at the DOC’s VCU Secure Care Unit (SCU).  Oh, and we should mention that Rev. Rhyne served another round of interim chaplaincy at FCCW during 2018!

As of this writing, Chaplain Vera Rhyne currently serves State Farm Correctional Center and the DOC’s VCU Secure Care Unit (SCU).  Due to funding issues, she is currently serving part-time (30 hours per week).  GraceInside desperately needs additional funding (i.e. assistance from friends like YOU) to restore Chaplain Rhyne to FULL-TIME hours!

It should be quite obvious that this honored Veteran and Chaplain NEVER SLOWS DOWN!!!  She is a “Chaplain’s Chaplain” – a true professional, beloved by Wardens, administrators, security staff, religious volunteers, inmates and by many, many devoted “fans” and supporters in the community at large.  Chaplain Rhyne is one of GraceInside’s 33 CHAPLAINS, serving at ALL 42 VIRGINIA STATE PRISONS, ministering to the spiritual needs of nearly 24,000 INCARCERATED MEN AND WOMEN!

Chaplain Rhyne has led a life of SERVICE and SACRIFICE for decades – as both an honored Veteran and as an extraordinary Chaplain.  The verse of our Christmas theme song that is quoted above says, “If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.”  Chaplain Rhyne exemplifies this spirit of giving her ALL, her EVERYTHING – out of love for God and for the inmates and staff that she serves.

Won’t YOU do YOUR very best this Christmas – and give sacrificially to this vital, life-changing ministry?  Remember, the Baby born in the manger became the Lamb of God that gave His life for all.  Indeed… What shall we give HIM???

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