Army chaplain jailed for drunken behavior, shoppette gas theft
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A series of bad decisions, from stealing gas to smashing the window of his estranged wife’s car, has landed an Army chaplain assigned to Stuttgart in jail for a month.
Chaplain (Maj.) Donald V. Wood was sentenced Tuesday at a general court-martial, after a military judge found him guilty of larceny, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and of damaging nonmilitary property. He pleaded guilty to being absent without leave.
The one-day trial in Kaiserslautern depicted a chaplain struggling with life, who was unable to let go of his marriage of more than 26 years and who had lost the confidence of his supervisors after a string of misconduct over the past 18 months.
The theft occurred when Wood, a Full Gospel chaplain, drove off from the Ramstein Air Base shoppette in May 2019 without paying for $99 in fuel. The next day, on Mother’s Day, military police were called to escort Wood from Macaroni Grill on Ramstein after he drank five blood-orange cosmopolitan cocktails and passed out, according to testimony from the bartender who served him.
The property damage occurred about two months later, when Wood, who has been separated from his wife for years, busted the rear window of her car. He had shown up at her home unannounced one evening, yelled profanities and banged on her apartment door before breaking the car window, his wife testified.
Wood also was found not guilty of stalking his wife, on a charge related to that night and another incident last spring involving text messages.
Wood pleaded guilty to being absent without leave from his job on Panzer Kaserne for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, where he was a resource manager in the garrison’s religious support office.
Wood admitted in court to ignoring an email from his supervisor in late March 2020 revoking his leave early and ordering him to report back to work. Military police picked him up about two days later at his home in Kaiserslautern.
“I was distraught due to life circumstances,” Wood told the military judge, Col. Christopher Fredrikson. “I am so sorry to my supervisors and the Army.”
Government prosecutors said that Wood “acted with impunity,” arguing that “his emotional pain” didn’t excuse or justify his misconduct and that as a chaplain, he can’t help others if he can’t handle his own affairs. They asked that Wood be dismissed from the service and sentenced to a combined four months in jail.
The defense, in asking for a reprimand and forfeiture in pay as punishment, noted that Wood stood to lose some $1.2 million in benefits when he becomes eligible to retire in 2024.
“This is a time to look at a chaplain as a human being … as a person who doesn’t have all the answers in this world,” defense counsel Capt. Daniel Franco-Santiago said.
Fredrikson gave Wood jail time that added up to three months but made the terms concurrent, so Wood will only have to spend a month at the Army’s regional correctional facility at Sembach.