sneakin deacon

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville man spent two decades protecting the country's top leaders, but now he serves a higher power.

Greg Gitschier details his unorthodox career in a new book, "Sneakin' Deacon: From Secret Service to Sacred Service."

Standing in front of the congregation at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Deacon Greg Gitschier has always felt the call to serve.

"You become a part of really important things in people's lives. I'm there for the baptism with the child. I'm there when they make confirmation. I can be there when they get married. I can be there when they pass away," said Gitschier.

That call to service wasn't always clear, but something nudged him to the church after 21 years in the Secret Service.

"It used to be saving people's butts and now I'm saving their souls," said Gitschier.

Gitschier's career began as an LMPD officer, before becoming a Secret Service agent. His first assignment was guarding the 39th president of the United States. "Right out of the box I picked up President Jimmy Carter in Lexington and drove him to the Kentucky Derby," said Gitschier.

He went on to serve several other presidents, including Ronald Reagan who gave him a nickname. "From that point on I was always "Kentucky." As a Louisville fan that hurt, but I was "Kentucky," he said.

Gitschier spent years traveling the world protecting celebrities, CEOs, politicians and royalty, but it was one of his last assignments that made the biggest impact on his life: protecting Pope John Paul II.

"I don't know how I got selected, because hundreds and hundreds of Secret Service agents want to be a close exhort of the pope," he said.

Gitschier was one of just six agents on the side of his Holiness during the Pontiff's 1999 visit to St. Louis. "I just felt like I was the luckiest guy, like I hit the lottery," he said.

Gitschier feels like that fateful encounter led him to this latest chapter in becoming a deacon.

"All of a sudden, I take this crazy turn and go to school for five years," he said.

Gitschier's finally telling his story in a new book "Sneakin' Deacon: From Secret Service to Sacred Service."

"I've been telling war stories forever and people keep saying, 'Hey tell us that story about this and tell us that story about that'," he said. "So Bryant Stamford, he put up with me and all my war stories and put them in a great book."

Each page is a reflection on the divine journey of servitude that eventually led him to the alter.

"I'm just grateful for everything I have and I'm thinking this is a way I can give back," he said.

The book is available at Carmichael's Bookstore locations and also online through Butler Books.

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