Chaplain (Colonel) Herman Keizer Jr., ordained in the Christian Reformed Church in 1968 and director of the denomination’s Chaplaincy and Care Ministry from 2002 to 2009, was one of three west Michigan veterans inducted into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor on Nov. 18. Keizer spent 34 years as a chaplain in the U.S. Army, among them 15 years serving at The Pentagon and two years at the State Department. The induction ceremony at the Michigan History Museum in Lansing, Mich., included the presentation of a medallion and a letter of tribute. Because Keizer died in 2017, his widow, Ardis, was present to receive the honors.
The Hall of Honor was established in 2018 with the objective to recognize and select Michigan’s most distinguished service members and veterans for induction each year. The organization seeks “to educate Michigan citizens, and particularly young people, about the military and civic service of state veterans in order to inspire a sense of pride, patriotism, and civic virtue,” according to its website. Nominations for inductees are accepted each year.
“I nominated Herm Keizer for induction this year,” said Paul J. Ryan, retired captain, U.S. Navy Reserve, and vice chair of the Hall of Honor. “Herm’s accomplishments merit a place in either the ‘military’ or the ‘veteran’ category, because his lifelong efforts to increase awareness of post-traumatic stress and ‘moral injury in war,’ and to assist veterans suffering from it, took place both in and out of uniform.”
Following retirement, Keizer was deeply involved in writing, speaking, and promoting the concept of moral injury. He was a founding co-director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. He played a key role in establishing the Hidden Wounds of War Conference that now takes place annually at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was special counselor to the Kent County Veterans Treatment Court in Wyoming, Mich., established in 2015. At the time of his death at age 79, Keizer was national chaplain for the 45,000-member Military Order of the Purple Heart, composed of those, like himself, who received the medal for wounds suffered in combat.
Mel Flikkema, a retired U.S. Army chaplain and ordained CRC minister who watched the livestream of the ceremony, said it “was a well deserved posthumous tribute to a gifted chaplain that served both his country and his Savior with all that he had to the very end.
“His selfless service continued until the day he died,” Flikkema said. “It may be a long time before the CRC has another military chaplain to serve with the distinction and excellence that Herm did both in the active military and in his retirement.”
Flikkema said it was fitting that Keizer’s wife, Ardis, could receive this award on his behalf. “Ardis was by his side through all of his time in the military and in his service in retirement. I hope she felt that she too was being honored.”