By CJ Carnacchio
Oxford Leader Editor
When James Muys agreed to become the chaplain for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) North Oakland Post 334 in 2015, he did so because it was a “position that had to be filled and nobody really wanted it.”
“I guess I kind of got it by default,” said the Oxford resident.
He never imagined that one day, he would receive national recognition for his work. But, that’s exactly what happened.
Muys was named winner of the 2019 National Chaplain of the Year Award at the 120th VFW National Convention held in Orlando, Florida from July 20-24.
The announcement “shocked” him.
“To me, it’s just mind-boggling,” said Muys, who also serves as chaplain for the VFW’s Oakland County Council and District 5. “I would have never guessed in a million years that I could receive something like this. This is a very prestigious award.”
Muys, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Navy from 1966-72, is “very humbled” by this honor and finds it “gratifying to know that (he’s) doing a good job.”
“It’s going to make me do an even better job in the future,” he added.
According to the criteria for the National Chaplain of the Year Award, recipients must exhibit “exemplary character and conduct;” their job performance must be “above and beyond the normal expectations of the position and duties;” their personal attitude must be “positive and professional in all contacts with others;” and their commitment to the ministry and duties of the chaplain should be “reflected by (the) service” they provide to comrades and their families, and their “responsiveness to needs.”
In the nomination letter he penned for Muys, Post 334 Commander Jim Hubbard detailed everything his chaplain does.
When it comes to helping his comrades, Hubbard wrote that Muys regularly visits veterans in their homes and at hospitals, delivers groceries and medications to them, and provides other needed services to the homebound.
“When a comrade had a medical emergency, (Muys) arranged to get him (into) an assisted living home, assisted (with) obtaining Aid and Attendance benefits from the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to help cover (his) living expenses and medical care, and he conducts follow-up visits to ensure the (veteran is) doing well and (is) in good spirits,” the commander wrote.
One comrade even granted Muys power of attorney to make decisions concerning his finances and well-being.
During the holiday season, Hubbard wrote that Muys obtains donations and collects food items, packs them into Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, then orchestrates their delivery to veterans and their families, especially those enduring financial hardships.
Muys, who joined the VFW in the 1970s and became a life member in the early 1980s, has also helped pack and mail hundreds of care packages to U.S. troops deployed overseas as part of efforts to “boost their morale” and remind them that “those of us at home haven’t forgotten about them,” Hubbard wrote.
When a veteran dies, Muys regularly volunteers his services to lead ceremonies.
“This year, he even led the funeral ceremony at Great Lakes National Cemetery (in Holly) for a fallen comrade from his post and knocked it out of the park in a way that would have made (Rev.) Billy Graham smile,” Hubbard wrote.
Norman W. Mauldin, commander of the VFW’s 5th District, also had words of praise for Muys. In his statement of endorsement for the chaplain award, Mauldin described Muys as a “good, God-fearing man (who) has busted his hump for the VFW, at all levels, and has requested and accepted nothing in return.”
“One week after suffering a heart attack and having two stents put in, he was back in the saddle (doing his job),” wrote Mauldin. In his view, “other chaplains and VFW members would do well to emulate” Muys’ “professionalism and dedication.”
Even though Muys, a retired truck driver who spent 31-plus years on the road, didn’t set out to become post chaplain, he loves the position. “The more I did, the more I enjoyed it,” he said.
His favorite aspects of the job are leading prayers and assisting others.
“If somebody has a problem, I try to help them out in whatever way I can,” Muys said.
Muys credits being a chaplain with helping him to reconnect and reconcile with his own spiritual side. “I’m a believer,” he said.
Muys hopes other veterans will take some time to learn more about the VFW and join its ranks.
“Come in and find out what we’re about,” he said. “We need to get the younger guys (involved with) the VFW to carry on the tradition (and) make sure that (present and future veterans) get the benefits they deserve, (the benefits) we fought so hard for.”