Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Catholic Chaplain (Maj.) Jason Hesseling became the latest U.S. Army chaplain to receive the Order of Martin of Tours Award in a ceremony April 9 at Zais Park.
According to a memorandum from the office of the Chief of Chaplains, “the Honorable Order of Martin of Tours is awarded to those chaplains and religious affairs specialists who have demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence, selflessly served soldiers and families, and contributed to the promotion of the Army Chaplaincy.”
“(The award) hasn’t been around very long and there haven’t been many people that have had it awarded, so I took that to mean there was something very special about Father Jason being nominated to (receive) this,” said Richard Creed, director of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate. “There are only a handful of professions. … The military is a profession, … and there is the clergy, which is considered a profession as well.
“Isn’t that kind of neat that we have folks, in this case, who are a member of two professions that are both clergy and a military officer? The unique demands on each sometimes can be pretty awesome in a day-to-day aspect of things,” he said. “The things that (Hesseling) has done since he’s been part of the (CADD) team have been fantastic because he’s bringing that different perspective of his Army jobs in the past and then the perspective of his clergy jobs in the past and that human dimension of our profession and how to make sure that our doctrine accounts for that.”
Hesseling, who also serves as the CADD religious support integrator, was nominated for the award for his efforts to provide religious services and rites to the Catholic community at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as his role in building a readiness and resiliency center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, among other things, said Garrison Chaplain (Col.) Michael McDonald.
“The impact that Chaplain Hesseling has had on our corps is influential in our strategic leader development training. The emphasis that Chaplain Hesseling provided toward our need to recognize the generational difference when it comes to spiritual readiness, and his contributions to that are not only being spoken at Joint Base Lewis-McChord but is now spreading across our Army,” McDonald said. “Because of those efforts, the Chaplain Corps elected to recognize and add Chaplain Hesseling to the roll of the Martin of Tours award.”
Saint Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who served in the fourth century, McDonald said. As the story goes, he encountered a beggar one winter evening outside the city gates. Although Martin did not have coins to give him, he cut his wool cape in half and gave part of it to the beggar. That night in a dream, God, wrapped in the same cloak, appeared to Martin. That portion of Martin’s cape is now enshrined.
“(The cape, in Latin) was known as the cappella. From that word, we get chapel and chaplain,” McDonald said. “We are named chaplains because of Martin of Tours.
“We couldn’t think of a single person that captures what we do as chaplains more than Martin of Tours,” he said. “We wanted to be able to honor those within our branch who rise above and show what it is to be an excellent officer, but more importantly, an excellent human being. Jason, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do.”
Hesseling said receiving the award means a lot.
“I’ve been trying to downplay it, but I recognize the importance of this award and the gravity of this award,” Hesseling said. “What I’ve learned in my time in the Army is that it is usually not about the one person. It is usually about the team that they’ve been on and the teams that have brought them to where they’re at.
“I’ve been blessed in that I’ve had great teams to work on, incredible chaplain assistants, incredible religious support specialists and religious affairs specialists and just other great officers that have helped mentor me, guide me and get me to where I am today, and I continue to be on a great team,” he said.