The Salvation Army's Major Fred Mead Joins Midland Division EDS

Feb 20, 2023

Please extend a warm welcome to Major Fred Mead who has joined the Midland Division Emergency Disaster Services team!

Major Mead joins the team as co-coordinator - with EDS Deputy Director Gretchen Luke - of the Divisional EDS Emotional & Spiritual Care (ESC) Program.

Major Mead and his wife, Major Nancy Mead, came to Midland Division from their most recent appointment in Nashville, Indiana where they were Corps Officers for the Salvation Army of Brown County.

Indiana is Major Mead’s home state, and he has the unique distinction of being the first new year’s baby of Evansville, Indiana on January 1st, 1966. While growing up, his family members were part of The Salvation Army church and so he has had an awareness his entire life. Likewise, Major Nancy’s family has also been part of the Church for her whole life, and it was their family’s involvement with the Church that provided the path for them to be able to meet.  

Major Fred said he has “known Nancy since as long as he can remember and met through his aunt and uncle who were officers in Bedford, Indiana”. The two families spent holidays together and long weekends at the lake. When about 10 years old, Major Fred and Major Nancy lost touch with each other until he was a freshman in college.  

Major Nancy’s parents were officers at Indianapolis’s Eagle Creek and later stationed at Evansville Lodge.  

By chance they ran into each other at a Kmart while she was bell ringing and he was entering the store to shop. The pair struck up a conversation that lasted until Major Nancy’s dad arrived to pick her up. As there was limited room in her dad’s station wagon, the kettle went with him, and Nancy went with Fred. Major Fred grins with satisfaction as he recalls, “Dad took the bucket, and I took the bell”! 

The Mead’s started dating in 1984, married in 1985, and now have two adult children. Samantha married Ryan, her high school sweetheart, and a Life Flight pilot with Air Methods. They live in Des Moines, Iowa where she is a stay-at-home mom to the Majors’ 9-year-old grandson, Ryan, and a new girl grandbaby due at the beginning of April 2023. The Majors’ son Benjamin lives in Marshfield, Wisconsin with their two grand dogs Munchkin and Norman. 


Transition to Life Serving God 

While at a college basketball game, Athletes in Action vs. the University of Evansville, Major Mead, not a practicing Christian at the time, knew those “Bible thumpers” would be at the game (to win souls at halftime). Full of cynicism while anticipating their evangelizing strategy, he expected a show during half time of the game, but instead received a message. The message was clearly meant for him. It was tailored for those who knew the Lord but whose lives had fallen on hard times. That same night, Major Mead had a breakthrough revelation that he was worse off than someone who had never heard the Word, because he had heard and chose to ignore it. “God hadn’t forsaken me; I’d forsaken Him.” Major Mead has not looked back since.  

Soon after he attended a revival at the Evansville Asplen Corps and had a revelation while listing to Major Verle Wilson at the time. Wilson was talking about the Salvation Army’s ninth doctrine that states: We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ. That’s what was lacking in Mead’s faith, obedience. 

It was in 1996 when God really started working on Major Mead and changed his life. By 1997 he started getting active again with TSA and worked with the youth programs. That same year he was part of his first TSA Global Missions Team and had a two-week deployment to Mandeville, Jamaica to renovate a children’s home. Major Mead became a Salvation Army officer in May of 2000. 


EDS and ESC Response 

Officer training teaches one to be an officer first. Nothing at the time prepared him for the ESC side of responding to survivors of a disaster. In the 1990’s he responded to flooding along the Ohio River. But it was in 2001 when he received what may be the most direct and intense type of ESC training a person can get; he deployed to New York City for the 9/11 response. 

If we were already alive and old enough, every one of us remembers where we were and what we were doing that morning. On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, then Captain Mead was driving his daughter to school when the news broke of the strike to the second tower. By October 12th, Captain Mead was on a plane to New York City with deployment instructions to serve 1st responders from a canteen. Upon arrival and check-in, the deployment assignment changed to Pier 94 Family Assistance Center with Major Jerry O’Neil, also a Captain at the time. At the beginning of what is now known as a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), their role was to be the daily supervisors of a team of four counselors assisting families and 24 caseworkers assisting displaced workers and residents. 

The Captains’ lodging was at the Radio City Apartments, about a mile from and close enough to walk to the Pier. Their daily routine was to take turns with one going early, the other going late, and overlapping during the day. The first half of the day, Major Mead prayed with families while Major O’Neil worked with the displaced workers and families. Midday, the pair switched roles. Major Mead said, “we didn’t know about burnout and CISM [Critical Incident Stress Management] at the time”. Reading others accounts of the atmosphere at Pier 94, by September 19th no one had been rescued alive from the rubble for 6 days and there was “no more hopeful desperation in [the relatives] eyes”. They had come to the realization, that apart from a miracle occurring, “the 5,000 plus souls trapped down there are almost certainly not coming home alive”. SFGate 9/19/01

What was supposed to be a standard two-week deployment, with two travel days – one each at the beginning and end – and twelve working days in between, was extended to a total of nineteen days. Major Mead said he and Major O’Neil were the only officers qualified at the time for this deployment. He remembers Lt. Col. Bob Webster, then a Major, as the TSA officer in charge at ground zero took him and Major O’Neil on a ride around the ground zero perimeter. “It was haunting to see all of the beautiful marble covered in dust and spray paint marking, and the smell!” He could see how responders were trying to manage the chaos, but it was surreal traveling block to block and hard to comprehend. “It’s not like what you see on TV”.  

Major Mead had the option to have meals separate from recovery operations, but instead wanted to eat with the workers. He recalls their feelings of survivor guilt and trauma from attending continuous memorial services. He always knew when the loss was one from the fire department. One group, Friends of the Carpenter, provided wooden crosses to share with the families. Today these memories remind him of the need for all of us to self-care after a response. 

ESC has come a long way since then”. The Salvation Army’s ESC support services include care for disaster survivors, first responders, the public, and care for staff and volunteers within TSA and partner organizations responding to a disaster. Today, an integral part of the ESC and Chaplaincy program included debriefing within a timely manner after a deployment. It was not until a year after the deployment to New York city that Major Mead received ESC care. October 11th and 12th, 2002, he was one of forty participants at a CISM course at Camp Wonderland. Nine of the forty had served in New York and most were not doing ok and agreed to a proper debriefing. He and the others were able to share what they had been through in a way only others who had been there too would understand. That night, Major Mead slept through the night for the first time since returning home from the New York City deployment. 

In response to hurricane Katrina in 2005, Major Mead deployed to serve in logistics for TSA and on the day of arrival received a call that his dad had a stroke. The next day, September 11th, his dad passed. Major Mead recalls having a great support system in that the ESC officers fulfilled their role and cared for him. They laid hands on him and prayed for him and his family, giving him a sense of peace and calm such that he felt cared for and supported. This was the “next best thing to being able to be with my dad when he passed”, Major Mead warmly remembers. 

While serving as the Divisional Youth Secretary during an appointment in Omaha, Nebraska in 2007, Major Mead once again deployed to provide ESC to disaster survivors of another significant scale and far-reaching traumatic event. This time the disaster was a mass shooting. An article in The Salvation Army’s Central Connection newspaper of January 2008 reported: 

SA brings comfort after mall shooting: 

On December 5th, emergency disaster services (EDS) teams responded to the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., after a 19-year-old man shot and killed eight people before turning the gun on himself. A canteen was deployed to the police command center at the crime scene within moments of the tragedy. Additional EDS personnel were stationed inside the mall’s JCPenney store to bring comfort and a respite to law enforcement officials. 

In less than 10 hours EDS personnel provided more than 150 law enforcement officials with food, water, and emotional and spiritual care. The Salvation Army remained on the scene to serve breakfast and snacks to those continuing the investigation.  Read more

Major Mead was assigned a position inside that JCPenney’s store, which is also where employees from the mall stores were moved to. Taking ESC a step farther, this time, in addition to the immediate response, he returned after the mall reopened to offer ESC and referral information for anyone wishing to receive longer term support. 


What is the future of ESC and the Chaplaincy program in the Midland Division?

Major Mead would love to see more people trained and prepared to use ESC skills with their own families, within their sphere of influence, or on a disaster response. It is good information to have when working and praying with people during difficult times. “We could easily go through life without having to use ESC skills, but reality is we will have a use for ESC in our daily lives”. Major Mead is available to listen to and help folks make sense of craziness in life and to know how they feel is normal in response to crisis in their life or a disaster. 

Look for the ESC section in future Midland Division newsletters where Major Mead will either have something to share or will call upon our ESC and Chaplaincy volunteers to write about their experiences. 

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