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Lt. Cmdr. Donald A. Baker, chaplain, Headquarters Battalion, began his military career as a Marine officer. Over the years, he developed a love for music as well as a desire to help the Marines with whom he served and made the decision to become a chaplain. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

What I’ve Learned: Donald A. Baker

28 Jan 2016 | Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Lt. Cmdr. Donald A. Baker, chaplain, Headquarters Battalion, began his military career as a Marine officer. Over the years, he developed a love for music as well as a desire to help the Marines with whom he served and made the decision to become a chaplain.

Both my parents were enlisted in the military and I was born on a military base. The idea of joining the military didn’t happen until later in my life and as I approached adulthood I couldn’t believe I never considered the possibility. I first became active duty Dec. 15, 2000.

My decision to become a chaplain came to a head while I was serving as the commander for Company A, Headquarters Battalion [aboard the Combat Center]. I saw a lot of Marines making messes of their lives with different decisions and tragedies, over time I developed [sympathy] for the Marines. What I wanted to do was tell the people, who I love the most, about what I love the most, which is God.

Having been raised on a military base, I understood what the dependent perspective is like because I was that military child. Being on active duty, allowed me to understand what service members go through because I was there too.

I believe I’m doing what I was put on this Earth to do. Having all my experience and having walked the same path as the Marines there is a very easy connection with them.

People that have been influential to me would be my father-in-law, who was the chaplain at my first unit, and my father because of his work ethic. He showed me if you put your mind to whatever it is you want to do, you can do it.

If I could have the perfect day, I would go snowboarding, spearfishing and surfing and I would travel between each of those locations on my Harley.

I first started playing guitar because I wanted to learn Jimmy Buffett to get the girls. Just through learning those songs I actually became pretty good at the guitar.

My first time leading worship was actually at this chapel where I lead the music program. I kept learning overtime and increasingly got better as I developed a passion for it.

My favorite era of secular music would have to be ‘90s alternative. I love praise and worship music in general but specifically Hillsong music is my favorite.

Music is a gift that everyone shares. When you think about it everyone can enjoy music, it is what distinguishes conversation from something that has melody, tone and intonation.

It’s the same thing with food. Food can taste like paper but can also allow us to have a whole gamut of flavors.

Music really is an expression of heart and soul. It’s interesting how influential music is. There’s a famous philosopher who said, “I don’t care who writes the laws of the country, I want to know who writes the lyrics.”

Music is an amazing phenomenon that is really multilingual, multinational and crosses cultures.

I think one of the difficulties of being a chaplain is that you never really know the impact that you have on people’s lives.

When you mow grass and you can look behind you and see where you cut and where you haven’t, there is a tangible product. I like to think that the impacts that we have on people is lifesaving.


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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms