BUIES CREEK -- Jeffrey Parker, a 1984 graduate of Campbell University, joined the Board of Veterans’ Appeal as an attorney nearly two decades ago because he saw a great opportunity. He would work with veterans. He would receive great benefits. And he would be doing similar work that he had done when he was a Navy JAG. But, he couldn’t say he “felt called to” the board, Parker said during his remarks for the Barden Lecture Forum series that Campbell’s Department of History, Criminal Justice and Political Science hosted Wednesday, March 26.
“I was trained and had experiences as a lawyer, yet I . . . . was questioning whether there was a more spiritual calling than law,” said Parker, who received his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a theology degree from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
But then one day, when his primary responsibilities were to write veteran disability appeals, a young veteran who had suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq came to him for help. She look tired. She struggled to focus. She spoke slow and labored. She was no more than 28 years old, but she reminded Parker of a “nursing home resident,” he said. He wondered: “How many more are there like her?”
Sadness overwhelmed him. In her he saw “war’s random destruction” and “the causalities of youthful promise,” he said. Another question came to him: “What can the government do for her now?” Then it hit him: “To his veteran, on this day, I was the government.” He did have a mission, a calling—to hold wounded veterans’ hands as they traversed the disability claims system.
That God can call Christians into secular professors, including with the government, was an epiphany for Parker, even though there has long been precedent. Romans 13:6-7 says to “pay taxes” because “rules are servants of God,” he said, for example, and Martin Luther once wrote: “Seemingly secular works are a worship to God and an obedience well pleasing to God.”
“The idea is that we don’t just serve God within our work, but we serve Him through our work,” Parker said.
Today, now in his 18th year with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Parker continues to help veterans. In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed him as a veterans law judge. His duties include conducting hearings at offices across the U.S. and in the Philippines and ruling on veterans’ disability benefits claims appeals and related motions. “Your secular work can be your sacred work if that is what God has called you to do,” he said.
About Jeffrey Parker: Parker was appointed by President Barack Obama in March 2011 as the veterans law judge with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, an agency of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. His duties include conducting hearings at offices across the U.S. and in the Philippines and ruling on veterans’ disability benefits claims appeals and related motions. He first joined the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in 1995. His previous positions there were as counsel and senior counsel, which included conducting continuing legal education training for agency attorneys. Previously, Parker served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1988 to 1991. He received his bachelor’s in government/pre-law from Campbell in 1984, and went on to earn a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1987. He also completed two years of graduate studies at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1992 to 1994.
About the Barden Forum Lecture: Begun in 1991, the annual Barden Forum Lecture is hosted by Campbell’s Department of History, Criminal Justice and Political Science. It’s named in honor of the late Graham A. Barden (1896-1967). He was first elected to represent North Carolina’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. Congress in 1934 and held the seat for 26 years. He was a long-time chair of the U.S. House’s Education and Labor Committee.
*The views expressed in the article are those of Parker and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Government, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Navy JAG Corps.