From leading troops to leading Christians

Kevin Gallmeier, a theology student and Purple Heart recipient, now pursues a future in ministry and leadership.


Thecla Li // THE CHIMES

Gallmeier is pursuing a degree to become a chaplain for veterans.

Lacey Patrick, Staff Writer

(This story was originally published in print on Nov. 14, 2019).

Kevin Gallmeier was clearing out a building in Iraq alongside a fellow marine. Enemies were close at hand, when suddenly a grenade was thrown near the two marines. In an instant, Gallmeier grabbed his brother-in-arms and threw him over a couch, shielding his partner from the blast with the furniture and his own body. Gallmeier’s armor protected much of his own body, but he still sustained a hemorrhage in his right ear and traumatic brain injuries. Because of his bravery, not only was he able to save his friend’s life, he was also decorated with a Purple Heart.

Gallmeier is a senior biblical and theological studies major who served the United States Marine Corps faithfully for 10 years and through four deployments, three of which were combat tours. When he was released from service, he entered into a different type of war—a war between post-traumatic stress disorder and re-entering society. Looking down sketchy roads and alleys reminded him of the roads in Iraq—roads laced with IEDs. He struggled going to the store due to large crowds. It was even difficult for him to join his wife and two kids at Disneyland because the swarms of people triggered anxiety. 

“I got to a point where I got so frustrated, I got so down. I felt alone, and I didn’t know what God wanted me to do,” he said. “I felt like I was blaming myself for things that happened over there, things I did.”

Time went on, but the PTSD never subsided. The struggle became so severe that Gallmeier contemplated taking his own life. One day, he decided to do it—to finally end the war raging in his mind. But God had other plans for Gallmeier. His story wasn’t over yet. 

“I felt a presence in the room that dropped a picture that was hanging in my room of my family. It made think it was God telling me, ‘You need to stay for them’ and I just felt this warm presence,” he said. “I heard a voice saying, ‘I need you here,’ and then that same night,”

I had a dream of me not leading Marines anymore, but leading men and women to Christ.

This led Gallmeier to pursue a degree that would prepare him to become a chaplain for Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. He is currently working on his bachelor’s degree and has plans to work toward a master of divinity at the Talbot School of Theology. Through much healing and therapy, he has finally reached a point where he can talk about some of the trauma he endured during his time in the Marines. 

“I feel okay talking about it [now], and I think that’s God using me to get that message out to people that don’t understand what can cause a person to be how they are when they first get out [of the military],” he said.

Since Gallmeier has seen so much and endured even more, he felt that the people around him didn’t understand. But he found a community of fellow veterans and professors at Biola that made him feel at home and helped him through difficult times. The Veteran Center for Military Affiliated Students, which opened in September, is one resource that Gallmeier, and many others, finds extremely impactful. It not only aids in connecting veterans, but also gives them an outlet to express themselves around those who understand them most.

“There’s more opportunities for veterans here. Now we have a VA center, [and] I’m amongst my own people,” he said. ”That’s why I want to continue with my master’s here. They work with us very well, and they have get-togethers and luncheons. Last week was a veterans chapel. I think it’s just a very strong community for veterans.”

Gallmeier isn’t the only student-veteran who has been impacted by these resources. Jennifer Alvarez, coordinator of commuter life and veteran programs, says most days the veteran center is packed to the brim. Plans are in the making to further expand the Veteran Center, according to Alvarez, in order to better serve military-affiliated students.

“They are an important and impactful part of our community and bring so much wisdom and life experience with them that benefits our school,” she said in an email. “They have served with honor and sacrificed much for this country, the least we can do is give them the support they need while they are at Biola.”

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