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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2022

Brothers, Chaplains, Captains: Mike and Mark Moreno

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond Maddocks

When Mark Moreno was in high school, he spent the summer living with his older brother, Mike Moreno, a Lutheran pastor living in Corpus Christi, Texas. While the younger Moreno was there, he got a summer job at a restaurant. That summer would prove to be a formative one in Mark’s professional life. He would go on to become a naval officer and a pastor.
“During that summer, I got to see the ins and outs of what a pastor does by watching my brother,” said Mark. “I saw the good, bad, and the ugly, and at the end of that summer I was thinking, hey, I think this is what I want to do.”
The next summer, Mark got a summer job at an amusement park and stayed with a family friend, then-Lt. Craig Muehler, an active duty chaplain stationed at Recruit Training Command. Through Muehler, Mark was able to observe the life of a Navy chaplain, working with religious program specialists, counseling Sailors and Marines, and interacting with the command.
Mark recalls one time that summer, when driving onto base in Muehler’s car which he had borrowed, the gate guard saw the officer decal and saluted him.
“At first, it just made me laugh,” said Mark. “But that interaction stuck in my head, and it gave me a glimpse into this world where people are a part of something bigger than themselves.”
A few years later, Moreno followed his calling and took steps toward becoming both a naval officer and a pastor. After completing his master’s degree and seminary, he was ordained, and immediately submitted a package to join the Navy Reserve as a Navy Chaplain.
“I felt that God was calling me to be a pastor in a church and to be a chaplain in the military,” said Moreno. “The Navy Reserve was the obvious choice.”
For the elder Moreno brother, Mike, the path to chaplaincy and the Navy Reserve was less direct.
“When I was in college, I wanted to be in the military,” said Mike. “But in order to go to boot camp and ‘A’ school over the summer, I would have had to miss out on my fall semester.”
Mike decided to remain focused on finishing his goal and becoming a pastor, briefly putting a rest to his military aspirations. That all changed, however, when he learned about the Chaplain Corps while he was in seminary.
“When I learned about chaplains, I knew that was the path I wanted to take,” said Moreno. “I would be able to do the job I love and serve in the military at the same time.”
Upon joining the Navy as an active duty chaplain, Mike was almost immediately on the deckplates supporting Sailors and Marines. Shortly after commissioning, he deployed to USS Cleveland (LPD 7).
However, after eight years on active duty, Mike decided his family needed him to be more present at home, and he decided to transition to the Navy Reserve.

Although they took separate roads to Navy Reserve chaplaincy, Mike and Mark Moreno have similar views on having a congregation and chaplain responsibilities.

“There were certainly challenges associated with having these two sets of responsibilities, but even with the new challenges, the transition to the Navy Reserve has been worth it,” said Mike. “The experiences I’ve been given in the Navy have made me a better pastor, and the experiences I’ve had as a pastor make me a better chaplain.” Mark agreed with this sentiment.
This is not where the similarities end for the two brothers. For both Morenos, the ability to work with and help Sailors and Marines is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
“I have the opportunity to work with [officers] and [enlisted],” said Mark. “I’m in a unique position where, no matter your rank, if you need my help, I can provide it. I think that benefits both the Navy-Marine Corps team and the service member.”
“Through the range of ranks, junior to senior, all people have things that they have to deal with,” said Mark. “Being able to support them through those times is one of the most rewarding things for me.”
Mike, who is 13 years older than Mark, is nearing retirement from the Navy. He looks back on a fruitful career in the military, and he looks forward to continuing to serve his congregation.
“I’ll be 60 next year, so my Navy career is coming to a close,” said Mike. “It has been an incredible ride, and now that it is over, I plan to devote more time to my community and see how I can serve better at home [Norfolk, Ne.] and with my congregation.”
Mark, on the other hand, is getting ready to take on the new roles and responsibilities of an O-6.
“I found out I was selected for captain in June, so I should put on [the rank] sometime in fiscal year ’23,” said Mark
In addition to promoting, Mark was the recipient of the St. Martin of Tours award. The award recognizes Lutheran chaplains who have served at least 20 years in the military with honor and distinction.
“I am very proud of my brother,” said Mike. “It is good to see him being rewarded for his hard work and dedication.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Mark recently began a deployment at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti as the base chaplain.
“As the base chaplain, my responsibly is to provide the three core capabilities of the chaplaincy: provide, facilitate, and advise,” said Mark.
As the bread and butter of the chaplain corps, these are capabilities that the Moreno brothers have been responsible for over a combined 48 years, and ones that they will continue to execute in the coming years, whether in the Navy or in their own congregations and communities.
There is a 24/7 chaplain hotline available for all Navy Reserve Sailors. This around-the-clock on-call phone service for Reserve Force personnel and their families provides safe and confidential counseling and spiritual services. The CNRFC 24/7 chaplain hotline is available at (757) 322-5650. You are not alone; do not suffer in silence.