By Portia Williams
Rev. Butch Travis, Ph.D, formerly of Wheelersburg, was recently inducted into the Wheelersburg High School Hall of Fame. Travis has served extensively around the world as an Army Chaplain, serving in ministry for 37 years which he has continued in Knoxville, Tenn. where he currently resides.
“I am a graduate of the class of 1971 of Wheelersburg, I played few sports, football, basketball, and baseball, and lettered in all three,” Travis said. “I was born and raised there off of Hemmerstein Road off of Dogwood Ridge in Wheelersburg as a child. I think from a small boy I attended Sciotoville Free Will Baptist Church, and was saved as a young boy at 13, and I felt like God was calling me to do something to serve him, and so this is where it all ended up.”
Travis said the nomination to be inducted into the Wheelersburg Hall of Fame came as quite a surprise.
“I have been gone from the area for a very long time, I left at 18, and that has been over 40 years,” he said. “When I was nominated for the Wheelersburg Hall of Fame it was quite a shock. I was really suprprised, and what an honor.”
He became acquainted with chaplaincy at the University of Kentucky.
“I started out in the Air Force during Vietnam from 1972 to 1975, and from my standpoint, I never really ran into a chaplain until I was in the Kentucky Army National Guard, and I had come to the University of Kentucky ROTC Program and began meeting chaplains in the National Guard and was already a Christian, but God had called me into the chaplaincy, so I felt the best way to serve God and country would be as an Army chaplain.”
Travis graduated from the Unversity of Kentucky in 1977, was in the Kentucky National Guard, and thereafter he said he received his call to the chaplaincy.
“From there I attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and after completion of my studies there at Southern Seminary was selected to go on active duty as an Army chaplain,” he said. “My first assignment was teaching for EMI Battalion in Savannah, Georgia, and it was a military intelligence aviation battalion, and we supported the military with military intelligence.”
His next assignment would come after the 9/11 tragedy, serving in the United States Central Command (US CENTCOM).
“The next road assignment was the assignment after 9/11, when the Twin Towers went down during 9/11, I was called upon to serve at the United States Central Command in Tampa, Florida,” he said. “It was an extreme amount of time of anxiety for our country, and at the same time trying to assimilate an army to attack the problem of terrorism there in the Middle East. So, a lot of the people that were called upon to go to US CENTCOM The people who were experienced in there fields, and were able to pull together to share our resources and personnel to begin deployments to the Middle East.”
Serving in the US CENTCOM, Travis had the opportunity to interact with President George W. Bush.
“I served there under General Tommy Franks. He was the US CENTCOM Commander at that time, and he worked for President Bush, and so we had access to the President just as he (Franks) did, on a daily basis in order to guide and direct the global war on terrorism,” he said. “From that point they had about 37,000 troops who were deployed at that time on emergency deployment throughout the country. As far as the chaplains, my responsibility was putting together the personnel package for chaplains to fill combat units in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, and Iraq,” he said.
His chaplaincy also took him to Germany, and was also selected to go to NATO in Casteau, Belgium.
“From that assignment I went to Germany for one year, to Heidelberg, Germany as the 26th Air Men Support Group Chaplain. Then after a year of being in Germany, I was selected to go to NATO, which is Castou, Belgium, and its called the North Atlantic Treaty organization. This was when General Eisenhower had become President, that was his command and he set that up,” he said. “NATO was developed of 29 different countries, and I was the international chaplain for the 29 different countries.” He said serving in this capacity was a unique, and interesting experience.
“I am at the Hollensten Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, which is called SAR. They have chaplains in the SAR, and basically we just work with developing programs for high schools and colleges for the ROTC Programs,” he said. “So, any type of events within the ROTC, the chaplains usually go out and give awards for the top cadettes, schools, and colleges here in the Knoxville area. We probably have about 11 or 12 high schools, and seven Christian high schools that we provide ROTC support to.”
Additionally, another population that Travis currently works with is veterans, married couples and their families.
“I also work with veterans, and I am a marriage and family therapist,” he said. “I have doctoral degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and have a private practice here in Knoxville. So, we have clients calling for appointments, and also veterans, so we do small group veteran work and do that free of charge for veterans in the area that are trying to reintegrate back into their families and community after combat and deployments. It is pretty interesting to see the transition of the ongoing families in the area that are experiencing post traumatic stress, or traumatic brain injuries.
He said there is a hospital in the Knoxville area called Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in which he serves as an adjunct chaplain.
“We provide services for soldiers, air men, Marines, Coast Guard, those kinds of folks that come in from actually having been in combat for a long term of time, and need to readjust with their families, and work with them and their wives to do marriage and family counseling with the children, and helping them to get acclimated to normal family life,” he said.
Undoubtedly, Travis has been blessed to live a full, productive life that has been packed with purpose.
“It has been a great life. I am 63, and so I have been at this for 43 years. We are doing a new church plant here in Knoxville as well. We started a church called Grastonbury Abbey, and the church was developed mainly out of a friend of mine who was my youth minister, Skip Meadows,” he said. “Skip brought me to know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and so within the church we are developing a marriage and family mentoring program, and it’s called the Skip Meadows Foundation. At the present time we are trying to train and develop older couples to mentor younger couples, cross cultural, multi-ethnic, so we could be ministering to Hispanic families, black families, Asian, white families. We are just opening the door to where ever God will lead us.
Being a part of the Wheelersburg community enabled him to have a great start in life.
“There is a great quote by T.S Elliot, in his poem called, ‘Ash Wednesday,’ it says, ‘Home is where everybody starts from,’ he said. “I feel like my community in Wheelersburg was such a close knit community in the school, that it really helped shape who I am today, with the sports and the coaches, all of those guys seemed to help form those young boys like myself into men. When we left our communities we all scattered all around the country and all of us were in different fields and vocations and mine just happened to be in ministry.”
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.