Veteran Dane Compton credits military for his life as a pastor
He is featured in this year's Salute to Veterans, which was inserted in the Friday, Nov. 5, Echo Press.
Dane Compton of Alexandria remembers his first day of boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.
The drill instructor stood with his legs apart, hands firm on his hips, towering over Compton and the rest of the newly enlisted frightened teenagers of the 110 First Battalion.
“You will respect me as you respect your parents and your God,” Compton, who is now 81, remembered the instructor ordering loudly and boldly. “It was kind of scary. I thanked the Lord for being with me. I was constantly praying and the Lord got me through it.”
Growing up, Compton’s family was poor and they didn’t often have means of transportation, which meant they could not make it to Sunday service as often as they would have liked. Nonetheless, Compton, who went on to become an E-4 Marine Corporal, said he was raised Christian.
He remembers that they prayed before eating and bedtime, and that they often talked about God and His word.
“I remember my dad telling me, ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ ”
Because of his family’s commitment to God, by the time Compton was in high school, he knew he wanted to be a pastor and “use the Lord to repair people’s hearts.”
Unfortunately, his family’s financial situation also made it impossible for him to go to school and study to become a pastor. Compton graduated from Clio Area High School in Michigan back in 1958, and in February 1959, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. This was during peacetime, he said, adding that he was following in his older brothers’ footsteps. More specifically, his oldest brother, Bruce, had also joined the Marines.
“The Marine Corps builds men!” Compton stated, but noted that every branch is important. In fact, his brother, Neal, served in the Army and his brother, Erle, was in the Navy.
His eyes were opened
Adventurous, challenging and eye opening is how Compton described his time in the Marine Corps.
“It was a different world than what I was accustomed to. I wasn’t used to being around people who talked the way they do in the military. My family never used the Lord’s name in vain. We always watched our words and were careful with our language,” he explained. “The sinfulness of humankind in such raw, bold, unrepentant and uncontrolled ways was an eye opener for me. My eyes were opened and I saw the need for sharing Jesus.”
Compton tried to remind his fellow soldiers to honor God with how they spoke and lived, which he said only resulted in mockery and them speaking even more unGodly in his presence.
“I tried to be kind, patient and encouraging to them, but they didn’t accept that,” he said.
A military chaplain, who Compton befriended and would help with various tasks, advised him not to confront them but instead to keep witnessing by not joining in with their bad language and way of living. Compton’s relationship with the military chaplains, civilian pastors and church members helped strengthen his faith.
Becoming a pastor
Following bootcamp, Compton graduated from the Aviation Radio Repair Course as a radio technician.
After a year and a half in California, Compton was then sent to the 2nd Marine Air Wing in Cherry Point, North Carolina. It was there he began to realize his true calling.
“God’s Holy Spirit was bringing to my attention the greater need for me to help people come to repentance,” Compton said. “Instead of learning how to repair radios, I wanted to use the Lord to repair people’s hearts.”
When Compton brought his desire to be a pastor to his superior officer, however, the officer reminded Compton that his contract with the U.S. Government was not yet up.
“This was no problem for God,” he said. “Working through my commanding officer, Colonel C.B. Beasley, my request was granted. Thanks and praise to God.”
After three and a half years in the Marines, Compton received an honorable discharge with a Certificate of Good Conduct in August 1962.
With the help of the G.I. Bill, his family and Pastor James Roseman of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Havelock, North Carolina, Compton was able to attend St. Paul’s Junior College in Concordia, Missouri, for pre-seminary training. He did this between 1962 and 1964. He then attended a seminary school in Springfield from 1964 to 1968.
In 1967, Compton worked as an assistant to the pastor at St. James Lutheran Church, where he met and fell in love with his wife, Carolyn. The two married in 1968, the same year he was ordained.
Compton, his wife and their firstborn son, Paul, moved to Garfield in 1974. He served as the pastor of a three-congregation parish – St. John’s in Garfield, St. Paul’s in Holmes City and Trinity in Millerville.
He has also served at Zion North Effington in Parkers Prairie, along with conducting monthly devotionals in three assisted living homes in the area.
Compton and his wife were blessed with two more children – Joel and Julie.
Today, Compton is retired and is a member of the Marine Corps Detachment 1409. He said they meet at the Alexandria VFW and share friendship, fellowship, comfort and encouragement.
“I truly enjoyed my time in the service. Without the military, I wouldn’t have been able to become a pastor or meet my wife,” he said. “When you see someone who has served in the military, be reminded the Lord is using them to preserve your freedoms and support them with prayers. I am glad to have served and I am proud to be an American.”