For James Mukoyama, Jr., each new morning brings the same thought to his mind: “Every day is a great day – I have my faith, my family, and I live in the greatest country in the world.”
And, the Partner in Pinnacle Forum’s Greater Chicago Chapter definitely has had many a great day in his 71 years, including:
- A distinguished military career that in three decades of active and reserve duty brought him a host of decorations and honors, and the rank of major general in the U.S. Army.
- An equally impressive 38-year marketplace career that included serving as executive vice-president of a national stock brokerage firm.
- A lifetime of rich relationships, including a loving marriage of more than 40 years, two decades of volunteer work for public and non-profit organizations, and many years of faithful service at his home church.
- Most recently, answering God’s call to develop a nationwide ministry to military veterans and their families.
It was through his Pinnacle Forum experience that Mukoyama discovered, engaged and then executed his God-given calling to become president and chief executive officer of Military Outreach USA, a faith-based 501(c)(3) organization that helps the military – active, reserve and veterans – and their families cope with the visible and invisible wounds often suffered in service to our nation.
“The Lord has provided people throughout my life who guided, encouraged, and loved me so that I could be prepared to serve according to His plan for me,” Mukoyama says.
And that includes the men he met when he joined the Greater Chicago Chapter some six years ago. He recalls his Forum spending nearly a year on the first piece of Pinnacle Forum’s two-pronged mission of “personal and cultural transformation, centered on the values of Jesus.” At the end, the men were asked to share their involvement in church and community, and then each was challenged, “What else can you do?” When asked what he would do if he could do anything, Mukoyama responded that he would create a network of churches to minister to past and present military and their families. And so, in early 2013 he left his position in the marketplace to head Military Outreach USA, the ministry he and some others, many of them Pinnacle Forum peers, had started a year earlier.
That his passion and calling would somehow involve the military isn’t surprising, given Mukoyama’s long and distinguished service in the Army.
In 1965, he was commissioned a second lieutenant after graduating from the University of Illinois. During his five years in active duty, he served as a platoon leader in the demilitarized zone in the Republic of Korea and as an infantry company commander in Vietnam. He became the youngest general officer in the entire Army in 1987; in 1989 he became the first Asian-American ever to command an Army division, and two years later became the youngest major general – the rank he held until he retired.
During his career, he received numerous decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart.
Since retiring from the service in 1995, Mukoyama has stayed more than busy. In addition to his career in the financial services industry, he spent seven years as the vice-chair of the National Memorial to Patriotism dedicated in Washington, DC in 2001; served five years including two as chair of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ advisory committee for minority veterans; headed the board of a senior citizens subsidized housing complex in Chicago; worked with the Military Ministry of CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center; led men’s and military ministries at Willow Creek Community Church, and with wife K.J. was a hospice volunteer.
He didn’t know it at the time, but those experiences and others – from his combat tours to his marketplace career to his volunteer work – were all part of God’s plan for his life.
“I can look back now and see that all the seemingly disparate things in my life – and all the things God did in my life – were to prepare me to fulfill the purpose He has given me.”
Mukoyama found his purpose in Military Outreach USA and its mission of building a national network of houses of faith that can help past and present service members and their families deal with a myriad of issues that all-too-often plague men and women of the military. Those issues have produced stresses and strains in individuals and families that have led to alarmingly high rates of everything from alcoholism to homelessness to suicide.
“There are 22 suicides of veterans every day,” Mukoyama says. “We lose more veterans to suicide in one year than all the deaths from combat since 9/11.”
While other organizations focus on treating PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other physical and mental health conditions, of special interest to Mukoyama and Military Outreach USA are men and women who have suffered “moral injury” – deep, unresolved and suppressed feelings of anger, shame and guilt that occur when the requirements of the military’s “warrior code” come into sharp conflict with a person’s personal moral code.
Doctors and drugs can’t heal those kinds of wounds, Mukoyama says, but houses of faith can, by providing an environment of love, forgiveness, compassion and care by clergy, counselors and a fellowship of believers.
Mukoyama and Military Outreach USA want to expand their network, resources and programs to churches throughout the nation, and he invites Pinnacle Forum Partners to visit the organization’s website at www.militaryoutreachusa.org, or to contact him by phone at 847-724-8292 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also has words of encouragement for Pinnacle Forum peers around the country:
“Pinnacle Forum has helped me to be in a position to actively fulfill God’s purpose for my life,” he says, and that can happen to every person in a Forum. “You need to determine your purpose, your calling … and how God has prepared you to carry that out. And then you just need to do it.”
And, he encourages his peers to start each day as he starts his: “Every day is a great day – I have my faith, my family, and I live in the greatest country in the world.”