EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Not only does Pastor Doug Richey serve his congregation at the Pisgah Baptist Church, he also represents Clay County as a member of the House of Representatives.
He's led a lifetime of service, including eight years in the Missouri Army National Guard as a combat engineer – a tenure cut short by his health.
"When I get out in '98 I was, subsequent to that, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes," Richey said. "And you can’t get back in the military when you are insulin-dependent."
So once he was out of the military, he focused on his ministry. Three years later, in 2001, he was the pastor of a church near Springfield.
During that time, his wife became pregnant. On Sept. 11, the Richeys were preparing to get an ultrasound to learn their child's gender when the planes hit the twin towers.
"We were in the car and were listening to the radio on the way to the doctor's office to find out about our daughter," Richey said. "Just the juxtaposition of this absolutely tragic, horrifying reality – so many lives that were obviously being lost right in front of us – and yet, my wife and I are sitting there, trying to celebrate something that was so precious to us, in terms of our daughter."
Meanwhile, he was overcome by a strong conviction to return to the military.
"I picked up the phone, and I was calling – I was calling recruiters. I called the state. I called our state senator, (asking) how can we find some way to be able to get around this challenge?" Richey said.
Despite his best efforts, his diabetes prevented him from reenlisting, which he said left him feeling guilty. That is, until he learned that through his ministry, he could still help the military.
"There were young men in my congregation that I was pastoring who ended up joining, and they went, right? So, I was able to serve them and their families that were staying back behind while they were going to harm's way," Richey said.
Twenty years later, he's still counseling his church community, now prepared to help members process the feelings of grief and loss the anniversary of that fateful day might bring.