Iwakuni chaplain killed in bicycle crash
May 24, 2011
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A popular Navy chaplain died Saturday morning in a bicycle crash near Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, officials said Tuesday.
Lt. j.g. Bruce B. West Jr., 41, of Williamsburg, Va., was traveling downhill in Oze Mochigadao at around 8 a.m. when he went off the road at a turn, Iwakuni police said. West, who was cycling with a friend at the time, hit a tree and died instantly, police said.
“We’re all sad over here,” Lt. Robert Mills, deputy command chaplain at Iwakuni, said by phone Tuesday. “Bruce was a guy who lived life in full color. He was adventurous, always looking for new stuff to do and try.
“He was outgoing, and very popular. In a very short time of ministry here, he had already impacted the base for good in so many ways it’s hard to measure them.”
West was endorsed by the Evangelical Church Alliance and had a master’s degree in theological studies from Reformed Theological Seminary, Mills said. He joined the Navy in August and arrived at Iwakuni in November.
Base spokesman Master Gunnery Sgt. John Cordero said that he personally had been affected by the personable junior chaplain, who always had a smile and who quickly became a good friend.
“He had a significant impact on the community,” Cordero said. “He was a great guy. … He always looked to serve others and he did it with joy.”
Mills said that West enjoyed being outdoors, whether it was fishing, hunting, running or bike riding. He had a “jacked up” sport utility vehicle that Mills called the “Tonka Truck.”
West was Protestant but worked with servicemembers of all denominations, Mills said.
“We’re hurt, but we’re not done,” Mills said, his voice wavering. “We’re going to continue working and sharing the legacy he left here.”
A memorial service is planned for Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Marine Memorial Chapel on base, Mills said. Friends said that West will be eulogized as someone who was dedicated to God and his family.
West is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, and three children.
Elena Sugiyama contributed to this report.