As Jesus was preparing His disciples for the events that would soon lead Him to the cross, He took great care to offer them hope, joy and love.
He would be sacrificing His life for them and for us. In John 15:13 He says, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” For the men and women who valiantly serve our country’s Armed Services, they are the embodiment of the love that He described. Many of those who have given their lives to protect the freedom of our great nation are laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C.
Every business day, there is an average of twenty-seven to thirty funerals at Arlington. For a full military honors procession, as many as seventy servicemen and women are involved. Each memorial service receives the same level of dignity and respect, and the next of kin is presented with a folded American flag. Although it is a time of anguish for family and friends, the chaplains that perform the service are some of the best in the world. One such serviceman is Chaplain Jason Hohnberger of the United States Army. For Chaplain Hohnberger, each service is an opportunity to share the hope and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Born to Serve
Jason Hohnberger comes from a line of military servicemen. His grandfather was an enlisted man in the Army and served in Normandy during World War II. His father also served in the Army during the Vietnam era and later became a businessman and pastor. Jason was blessed to grow up in church and to accept the Lord at an early age. Coming from a military and ministry heritage, he says,
"It is part of my history and God’s purpose for me to become an Army chaplain."Chaplain Jason Hohnberger
Chaplain Hohnberger started his career as a student at Bethel University but ran out of money to finish his degree. He was at a crossroad in his life. During that time of regrouping, one of Jason’s friends invited him to his house for dinner with his family. His father was a colonel in the Army National Guard. As Jason talked about his desire to join the ministry and how he loved camping, hiking and being outdoors, the colonel said, “You should become a chaplain’s assistant in the Army. You could pursue a career path that matches your interests as well as earn money to finish college.” It was at that moment that a light bulb went off in Jason’s head. He realized that this was God’s hand in leading Jason towards the purpose that God had for his life.
Being the son of a military man, Jason had been raised to become a warrior. He was taught how to do proper pushups to build physical strength, how to properly address servicemen and women, to show honor and respect and how to stand for his beliefs and his country. Jason enlisted in the Army National Guard and says, “I felt right at home in basic training. Getting up early in the morning to run came naturally to me. I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to go out and run obstacle courses. It was great!”
A Glimpse of God’s Calling
The first Sunday of basic training, Jason went to chapel service along with a bunch of his friends that he’d invited. The chaplain walked out with a guitar and began singing a worship song. At the conclusion of the song, he said that he felt that there was somebody in the congregation that also had a song to sing to the group. Jason had been a worship leader and played the guitar and he knew that this was meant for him. He said, “I stood up, snapped to attention and said, ‘I’ll play that song for you sir.’” He stood up on stage and began to sing to all of the basic trainees in the congregation, who all began to join him. At the conclusion of the song, the chaplain told him to keep going, and he sang a few more songs before turning it back over to the chaplain. After the service, Jason formally introduced himself. The chaplain invited him to be his worship leader. Jason assembled a small worship team and got to lead worship during the rest of his time during basic training. God’s hand continued to guide Jason as he went on to get his degree from the University of Wisconsin, went to Fuller Southwest and became a full-time Army chaplain at Fort Bragg.
The Bible on the Battlefield
In the role of a chaplain, he was always available for any soldier who needed a word of encouragement before a mission or at any time they felt the need.
"He cherished the opportunity to be the light of Jesus in the midst of the darkness of war. He often encountered children who would run to him and the other American soldiers, seeking protection and help."Chaplain Jason Hohnberger
He helped to assist medics tending to wounded soldiers and offered comfort and prayers – living the three-fold mission of a chaplain: to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen.
While in Afghanistan, he received the offer to serve as a chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington. It is a rare and distinguished honor and one that he couldn’t refuse. His role changed from serving alongside the military men and women to performing funerals for them. His motto had always been that he loved to get his boots dirty; now he is honored to get his knees dirty while kneeling to present the folded American flag to the soldier’s next of kin. He conveys the gratitude of every American when he says, “On behalf of the President of the United States, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
Even in the midst of the grief that is endured by those attending the memorial service, Chaplain Hohnberger gives a message of hope that we all have through a living God: Jesus Christ. He comforts and counsels family and friends of the deceased with gentleness and humility and shares the words of hope and joy that can only be found in Him.
Each branch of the military has its own chaplains at Arlington National Cemetery and represent the best of the best. Chaplain Hohnberger is honored and blessed to serve alongside men and women who are passionate about their roles and the purpose that God has for them. He now has a son and two daughters, giving him a more profound perspective of husband and father as he ministers God’s word. His accomplishments in the Army include: the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Army Achievement Medal, the Reserve Army Achievement Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), the Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge and the Noble Patron of Armor.
It is encouraging to know that our nation has such an enthusiastic advocate for our country, our soldiers and, above all, Jesus Christ serving as a chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery.
He is most excited about directing people to Christ. His calling is our blessing.