Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series of stories to be published over the summer about ordinary people who are making a difference in their communities.
NORTH ANDOVER — When Kenneth Lawson graduated from Greater Lawrence Technical School in 1979, he never dreamed that three decades later, he would be serving as a colonel in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps.
Neither did he imagine that he would be called on to calm down a domestic dispute at Fort Devens in which one of the antagonists was threatening people – including Lawson – with a gun.
Lawson, the son of Roger Sr. and Carol Lawson of North Andover, was the guest speaker at North Andover’s Memorial Day observances last month.
Lawson has been deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. So far, he has not served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but he was assigned to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where he ministered to and counseled wounded soldiers and Marines who were airlifted from those countries.
His work includes trauma ministry as well as pre-deployment and reunion counseling for troops and their families. Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have committed suicide. Lawson said he and other chaplains minister to soldiers who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder by counseling them in small and large groups.
Chaplains and other counselors also work with troops on a one-to-one basis if that is needed, he said.
“I am thrilled to serve soldiers,” Lawson said. “I’m honored. It’s a privilege.”
Lawson’s GI benefits allowed him to attend Salem State College, now Salem State University.
“It was at Salem State that I sensed a call to go into ministry,” he explained. While he embraced the call from the Lord, he did not feel a similar enthusiasm for serving in the military, he said.