Rev. Colonel Herm Keizer died unexpectedly on December 22 in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was 79. Keizer was the director of the chaplaincy ministry of the Christian Reformed Church from 2002 until he retired in 2009.
Ordained in 1968, Keizer spent nearly 50 years in CRC ministry, always in chaplaincy. He was drafted into the U.S. armed services in 1962 and served as a chaplain assistant until 1964. His career included service in Vietnam, where Keizer served with the First Infantry and the Fourth Infantry Divisions. He was wounded twice: from a rocket attack in Cambodia and from a 159-foot fall in a helicopter accident.
His military service took him many places, including serving as chaplain of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and NATO chaplain based in Stuttgart, Germany. In Germany he was an advisor on alcohol and drug abuse prevention. He was a faculty member at the Chaplain Center and School. He also served as deputy director of the Chaplaincy Service Support Agency in Washington D.C. and as executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, Department of Defense. He retired from the military in 1998.
After retirement, his continued government service included numerous roles, among them as assistant for leadership and human relations, Secretary of the Army, and advisor to the ambassador at-large for international religious freedom at the State Department.
Keizer received many awards and decorations over his career, including a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal, with several oak leaf clusters for additional awards of the medals.
Both Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary awarded him their Distinguished Alumni Award.
Following government service Keizer served as director of chaplaincy in the CRC. Rev. Peter Borgdorff was executive director of the CRC during that time. “As many of the chaplains who served with Herm will testify,” Borgdorff said, “he provided excellent and compassionate leadership during his years of directorship. Herm was knowledgeable about, and familiar with, the many facets and circumstances of chaplaincy in both military and institutional settings. Ministering to more than 100 chaplains throughout the world was a challenge he competently engaged and gladly performed.”
Borgdorff said Keizer told him that it was his grounding in Reformed theology that enabled him to articulate his positions and advocate for righteousness and truth.
In retirement, Keizer and others developed a presentation on the physical and psychological aspects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He served both the army and the CRC with advice on such subjects as Just War theory and the use of nuclear weapons. He became the national chaplain of the Purple Heart Association. In addition, he served the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, which recommended selective conscientious objection legislation to the U.S. Congress. He co-founded the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School (TCU) in 2012, dedicated to educating and researching moral injury and recovery for military veterans.
“I thank the Lord for a faithful and outstanding servant,” Borgdorff said. “We will miss not only his hearty laugh and personable manner, but he will be missed as a colleague and friend.”
Keizer was a member of LaGrave Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ardis, and two sons.
The Banner’s In Memoriam for Keizer will follow in print and on our website at a later date.