People who knew Joe Kirchmeier when he served two tours of duty in Viet Nam would likely be surprised that he became a deacon in the Seventh Day Adventist church.
"When I was in the Navy, I was a rascal," Kirchmeier said. "When I was in Viet Nam, it was a tough time. I drank a lot. You didn't know from day to day if you were going to be alive.
"When I came home, it was a tough time because you were not accepted," he said. "I went through a lot of changes coming back from Viet Nam."
Joe Kirchmeier volunteers as the community services director for the Seventh Day Adventist church.
His faith journey was prompted by another major change: he moved to Fort Dodge from Callendar in 1992 following a divorce. He joined the Seventh Day Adventist church, was baptized and immediately began volunteering there.
According to Kirchmeier, a volunteer steps out in faith. "That's what pushes me to do it. It's the Lord telling me to step out in faith."
Two years after his baptism Kircheier became a deacon; two years after that he became head deacon. Recently Kirchmeier volunteered to be community services director for the church.
About Joe Kirchmeier
Joe Kirchmeier, 60, was born and raised in Wisconsin.
He has two grown children and three grandchildren.
Kirchmeier worked for Wal-mart for 12 years in floor maintenance, and then in night receiving.
He also recently retired from the Iowa National Guard where he served 22 years.
When he does have free time he enjoys bowling, spending time with the grandchildren, fishing, and going on walks with friends. They take their dogs along. "That would probably be my biggest hobby." He takes his 15 year old dog along.
Kirchmeier also serves on a pit crew for a friend who is a senior class go-kart racer.
In his new position he organizes the two main charitable drives at the church. From September to November the church collects clothing. At the end of that time, the clothing is available - for free - to people in the community. From November through April the church collects food for the local food pantries.
Kirchmeier also provides more personal help, driving people to doctor appointments, to the grocery stores and other places.
His part-time job as night custodian at the Fort Dodge Recreation Center leaves his days free for volunteering.
Kirchmeier said he encourages others to volunteer "because the return they get is the smile from the person they helped. It is the thank you."
"People are afraid to volunteer, to pull over to help someone with a flat tire. They are afraid to pick up someone walking with a gas can," he said. "Today there's that fear. Thirty years ago there wasn't that fear."
Kirchmeier is also chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 861. He served as assistant chaplain for a couple of years and now chaplain for two years.
As chaplain, he visits fellow veterans who are in the hospital, sends them cards and calls them. His favorite by far is visiting in person, and he has traveled as far as Rochester, Minn., to drop in on a hospitalized vet.
Kirchmeier's duties also involve leading the chapter meetings in prayer, although he said, he has no background in ministry.
"I just became a member of the veterans group, and I guess it is because I'm a member of the church. The guys just felt I was the candidate to be the assistant. It's just the way I present myself and they see the Lord in me, the way I do things," he said.
"The Good Samaritan, when he stopped and helped that person on the road, he didn't look at who that person was. He just stopped, helped him, clothed him, and said I'll be back in a day to pay the bill. He didn't ask for any return. That's what a volunteer does."
"(God's) got a plan for us. It's his plan, not ours. That's why he says trust and obey." Kirchmeier said "If we work with him in his plan, in his time, it will all work out."