Virginia Military Institute welcomes Capt. Eli B. Facemire ’19 as the new associate chaplain, filling the vacancy left by Col. John P. Casper ’04, who was promoted to Institute chaplain in July following the retirement of Col. Robert “Bob” Phillips ’87.
During his cadetship, Facemire majored in psychology; held rank his 3rd and 2nd Class years; served on the general committee as class president; sang with a capella group, Men in Grey; was a cadre corporal; and was a cadet chaplain.
Facemire first felt a strong call to go into ministry during the fall of his 1st Class year while on a retreat with the chaplain’s office at Eagle Eyrie Conference Center in Lynchburg. “It doesn’t happen that way for everyone, but it was a dramatic epiphany for me,” he said.
After graduating from VMI, he attended seminary at Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity in Lynchburg, where he earned his Master of Divinity in professional chaplaincy: military. During his last semester of seminary, he interned with the chaplain at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Christiansburg. “That experience was invaluable in confirming my desire to be a chaplain, and I grew while providing emotional and spiritual support to patients, family members, and staff. I also built a relationship with the chaplain there, who provided me with guidance and encouragement,” he recalled. During his time in seminary, he also worked at Calvary Baptist Church in Radford, where he was involved with college ministry, leading worship with music, and assimilating new members.
Knowing he wanted to be a military chaplain, Facemire considered all the different branches in trying to decide which would be the best fit for him. Throughout that contemplation, he kept in the back of his mind the idea of returning to VMI if a position ever became available. “It was amazing timing because just a few months after I finished seminary, Chaplain Phillips announced his retirement. I was still in Virginia because several unforeseen circumstances occurred that kept me home. I am so thankful to be back at VMI. This place had such a huge impact on me as a cadet. It changed my life. VMI highlights your good qualities and chisels away at your bad ones,” he said with a smile.
Facemire believes his experiences as a cadet will help with his new job in every way. “I have been through everything the rats and cadets go through. Being at VMI is a unique experience. You won’t find it anywhere else. A lot of what Chaplain Casper and I share in Bible studies and in chapel services, and especially with one-on-one relationships, incorporates our experiences. Students ask so many questions like: ‘What was it like for you?’ and ‘What can I expect?’ so having the familiarity to share with them is invaluable. There will be times when I will need to help the cadets through difficult issues, but that’s why I took the job. That’s what I want to do. There is a huge focus on the physical and academics on post, but if you neglect the emotional and spiritual, then your experience here will be more difficult, and you will miss so many lessons about life,” he stated.
Casper knew Facemire when he was a cadet. “I am thrilled to have Eli as the associate chaplain to the Corps of Cadets! He is highly qualified and capable for excelling in the position. But, beyond that, he is just a substantial individual. He is unparalleled in his ability to connect with other people and is one of the most caring people I know. He loves cadets, he is deep-seated in his personal faith, and he is passionate about ensuring the free exercise of religion among the Corps. I am excited for the future of our office and know he will be invaluable in supporting cadets,” he said.
Marianne Hause VMI Communications & Marketing
Editor's Note: Story originally published by Virginia Military Institute.