Captain Robert L. VanBuskirk RUTHERFORDTON - Robert L. VanBuskirk was born on March 12, 1944, to Alden and Kathleen VanBuskirk. His father retired from the USAF in 1969 as a senior command pilot, achieving the rank of Colonel. In his early years, Bob wanted to follow in his father's steps into military service. He chose to join the U.S. Army and soon became a Green Beret in the Army's Special Forces. As an officer, Bob served with energy and valor in a variety of assignments throughout the world. His most challenging assignments were his tours in Vietnam and especially his participation in "Operation Tailwind" in September 1970, which was a CIA augmented SOG raid into Laos behind enemy lines. Bob received many awards including five Purple Hearts for wounds in action as well as The Silver Star and Bronze Star. Eventually, Bob was discharged from the military on full medical disability. His spiritual journey began with his family's membership in the Episcopal Church. His faith was further strengthened by a deep spiritual awakening on Easter Sunday in 1974 while falsely charged of crimes and incarcerated in a German prison along with terrorists from the PLO, Hamas, The Red Brigade and the Badder Meinhoff gangs. Shortly after this experience and exoneration from prison, he met Army Chaplain Tracy Maness who challenged Bob to enter seminary at Duke University Divinity School beginning in 1976. There his faith increased and matured. By graduation time in 1979, Bob knew he had received a calling to prison ministry. As a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, he had an immediate welcome by civilian prisons where Bob estimated that over 50% of the inmates were either Vietnam veterans or children of Vietnam veterans. Bob authored the book, "Tailwind" which told about his Vietnam experiences and particularly about Operation Tailwind and also told of his conversion experience to Christianity during his year of incarceration in a German prison. He was ordained a priest in the Order of St. Dismas Prison Ministry of the Charismatic Episcopal Church by Bishop Frank Costantino, a former prisoner who upon his release from prison became world renown for his own prison ministries. For three decades Bob worked in Bill Glass Prison Ministries, and with the Order of St. Dismas Prison Ministry. In more recent years he also worked in Kairos Prison Ministries and was a charter team member of Marion Correctional Kairos in Marion, NC. In the early morning hours of May 16, 2014, while preparing for the second day of a four day weekend event, Bob had an accident and died from those injuries on May 21, 2014. Bob was an ordained priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He married his wife Tina Marie Carol VanBuskirk in 1986. Bob is survived by his wife, Tina, and five sons: Kristopher Murphy, Matthew Keely, Joshua Ronald, Robert Alden and James Abel VanBuskirk. There wasn't an adventure Bob would not try and not a prison that Bob would not go to witness. He had a full and gracious life. The family mourns their loss and his passing into Heaven where at last Christ has received Bob L. VanBuskirk into heaven with open arms. A Memorial Service will be held Sunday, May 25th, at 3:00 pm at Fathers Vineyard Church, 724 Oakland Rd., Spindale, NC 28160. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service, at the church. Tina and the boys want to thank all those who visited and called while Bob and the family were in the hospital. A special thanks to all those who continue to support us with their prayers and the giving of their time and talents. Online condolences at www.crowemortuary.com.
141 Laurel Hill Drive Rutherfordton, NC 28139
Published in Charlotte Observer on May 24, 2014