New chaplain inspired by Veteran grandparents

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CH (1stLt.) Eliot Handziak poses with his family after an Oath of Office ceremony Nov. 13, 2018 Frankfort, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In a ceremony held Nov 13, Eliot Handziak took the oath of office to become an officer in the Kentucky National Guard, and a military chaplain.

Self-described as a passionate and compassionate person, he says he goes ‘all in’ no matter what it is he is doing.

The 45-year-old, Evansville, Indiana-native currently serves as a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and had served as a pastor for 14 years, and as a hospital chaplain for 4 years. He has a Bachelors of Arts in Theology and Biblical Languages from Moody Bible Institute, and a Master of Divinity from Oakland City University, Chapman Seminary.

“I had lots of different interests as a kid, but it wasn’t until I felt called to ministry that I felt a true sense of direction toward a career,” said Handziak. “I was 17 when I felt called to full-time ministry; I came to a place of renewed commitment to Christ in my teens and became involved in a youth ministry and began to serve, teaching Bible Studies and helping whoever I could. (That’s when)I realized it was what God was calling me to do.”

He credits his grandparents, who were there at his commissioning into the Guard, both at the age of 95, for a lot of the choices he has made in his life. They are both World War II veterans, who met while in training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and have set the example for Handziak to follow.

“I came from a family with a history of serving in the military. My Grandfather served in the Army during WWII, earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. My Grandmother was a Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and my other Grandfather was in the Navy during WWII. I had other uncles and relatives who served. It was instilled in me that it is an honor to do so, and that a citizen should give back in that way.”

He also credits his grandparents to have set the standard for the way he looks at relationships and is a great example of dedication to each other.

“They have been married for 73 years. They have provided an example of a godly and committed marriage. As well as how to persevere through life. They have provided a lifetime of love and support. I could not have been more honored to have them both present at my commissioning.”

Handziak has been married to his wife Lisa for 23 years. The two met between their Sophomore and Junior years of college in Evansville and hit it off immediately.

“I can truly say we are best friends. We met and were engaged in 3 months, married a year later and been together ever since.”

Together they have one son, Benjamin who is 22 and a granddaughter Aubrey, who is 5.

His decision to join the National Guard as a chaplain came from part patriotism and part convenience.

“When I was in college I had a friend who was a Chaplain Assistant with the 82nd Airborne. He told me about the Chaplains, and I saw it as a way to serve my country, serve the Soldiers in their time of need, and serve God,” said Handziak,

But he wasn’t willing to pick up his family and move them around the country at the whims of the active-duty Army so he knew he had to find another way.

“My wife has a position that she has worked hard to achieve and does excellent work and I did not want to make her give that up, so as I continued to feel God calling me to the Chaplain Ministry in the Army, I looked for a way to serve. I heard about the Guard, and did my research and reached out to state support chaplain, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Bill Draper about 18 months later and the rest is history,” said Handziak.

He saw that through his experience in the hospital that people associate the chaplain with God’s presence and it brings them comfort. They also know when there is a need, chaplains are there.

“I believe Soldiers probably encounter that as well. I hope to bring that to the Kentucky national Guard units I will serve,” he added.

Handziak will move forward in his duties with a personal message to the troops.

“In the Gospel of John, we are told that The Word, Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us,” said Handziak. “The Message Bible Translation says it this way, ‘he moved into the neighborhood.’ I really like that image. I have looked forward to moving in the Kentucky Guard neighborhood and getting to know the Soldiers and their families, and providing them support in whatever ways they need. I hope to be a blessing and sharing the love of Christ to them.”