Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Story...

Over the years, there is one question that I get the most: "How did you go from being a Navy SEAL to becoming a pastor?" I will probably write a book one day to answer this question, but today I will try to share my story in brief.

Where to start? Tough question. As I reflect on my life, there are a couple highlights that stand out to me on my journey. The first one has to do with my life early in childhood. I was the sixth of seven kids from a very abusive mother. She had good traits, but it was her abusive side that left the lasting mark in my life. When I was twelve years old, my dad gained custody of me and my younger sister after a long, drawn out court battle.

I lived with my dad and step-mom--who is now my "mom"--from sixth grade until graduation from high school. During these years I struggled in school because I wasn't really grounded in the basics early in my life. Where I lacked an educational foundation I excelled in sports and humor! This was a pretty good ride until my senior year, when I turned 18, and realized that I might not graduate unless I pass a class or two. At this point, I realized my dad was not going to fund me to go to junior college so I could party away my life. The ride was over and I got a little nervous.

Naturally, I needed an easy way out. I had to do something so I could eat upon graduation because I knew, or thought, I would be on the street shortly thereafter. Hmm, what could I do to sustain myself? Ahh, join the Navy to become a SEAL! Now that would be an easy way out...or that is what I thought at the time.

Fifteen days after high school, July 5, 1993, I found myself at Navy Recruit Depot San Diego. Within two years I graduated from BUD/S class 198 (SEAL training) and was off to SEAL Team 3. It didn't take long for me to find trouble. A few weeks after reporting to the team, I found myself in trouble with the law. It was the 4th of July weekend and I was out for a night of drinking with old high school friends. As the night came to an end, I decided to drive home. There is a long story here that lasted about a year and a half, but in short, I ran from the cops, was charged with resisting evading arrest, lost my security clearance effectively freezing my SEAL career, eventually regained my security clearance and went on to serve honorably.

The above paragraph was the low point in my life. I had lost everything and wasn't doing well inside. I drank more to numb the pain, yet it didn't. I had a friend who nagged me--constantly, over and over again--to go to church. I finally conceded under one stipulation: that he would never ask me again to go to church! He agreed and the was really the beginning of the end. This was in 1996.

By 1999, God had a serious hold of my life. I desired to know the Bible with great passion. This passion led me to take correspondence courses through Moody Bible Institute (2000), which in turn, led me to Southern California Seminary to complete my BA in Biblical Studies (2004), which then led to my completing a Masters of Divinity (2006), which then led to my enrollment into a Doctor of Ministry program with I am currently "ABD" (all but dissertation) and who knows if I will ever finish this.

Backing up a bit to 2001, I was a cross roads. Would I reenlist or not? I did for another four years while in Bahrain. I decided that I would ride out my time as a Navy SEAL instructor and complete my college.

Throughout this last four years I wrestled with what to do. Chaplaincy, missions, continue my career as a Navy SEAL? Should I separate from the Navy? My heart said "yes", but my mind and a bunch of other people said, in essence, "You're crazy! You only have 8 more years to full retirement!" This was a major struggle for me, but in the end, I felt God was leading me to become a pastor and I was to separate by faith. God is good and He has provided faithfully for me and my family since March 5, 2005 when I separated honorably from the Navy.

No regrets, I am loving life as a pastor. Here is a picture from the office with one of my girls!

Okay, this is the short version...feel free to ask questions, or add comments. I will expand from there!


Anonymous said...

Hi Gunnar, It was great to be able to read a little about your life and how you went from SEAL to pastor. I love the pics of your newest addition, congratulations!
Scott Becker

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Gunnar,
I know you are a very busy man with your roles as a husband, father and pastor. My husband is also a pastor so I understand the demands you have. Our son graduated from the USNA and is now in San Diego about to start BUDs in October. He has grown up in a Christian home and grounded in God's word. But he has strayed since the academy and surrounded by great men desiring to be SEALs but so far from the Lord. He doesn't want us talking about God/church and is struggling deeply with his faith. I would love to visit with you sometime so you can help me understand what goes on in a warrior's mind regarding God and all you must be told and learn while in SEALs.
I look forward to hearing from you soon. My email is

God bless,