A mentally disturbed man originally intended to kill only himself, but as his rage grew, he took three hostages. With the unstable aggressor intent on killing his captives, an Army chaplain only had a moment to take action and stop him after the machete was raised.
Army Captain and Chaplain Matthew Christensen has been described as “a soldier’s chaplain.” This month, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for providing more than just the normal “spiritual care and counseling” that is normally associated with the chaplaincy.
While servicing in Wainwright, Alaska, in 2015, Christensen went to a soldier’s house to provide counseling. He found the man drunk, suicidal, and becoming increasingly hostile.
“He declared that he had three hostages and that he was going to kill all of us that night to get back at his family,” Christensen told reporters. He described the soldier’s state of mind, saying, “the soldier I restrained that night was abused by his own father. He blamed his mother and grandparents for knowing what was happening and never stepping in and stopping the abuse.” [Source: Daily Caller]
The troubled soldier raged on, eventually pinning one man to the wall with a machete. “There weren’t too many other options but to physically jump in and grab and restrain the soldier,” Christensen said.
Although “tackling a soldier isn’t a preferred counseling technique for a chaplain,” to borrow Christensen’s words, that is precisely what he did. The machete was about to fall on an innocent man, but Christensen’s fast moves prevented the tragedy.
Lieutenant Colonel Joel Newsom, Christensen’s battalion commander, stated, “What impressed me was Matt’s judgment and the fact that he waited until there were no other options until he physically restrained [the soldier] to prevent the loss of somebody else’s life.”
In the end, Captain Christensen was credited with saving the lives of two soldiers. His Soldier’s medal citation reads, “Chaplain Christensen had only a moment to react and risked his own life to save the life of another soldier. His efforts made a difference and ultimately saved two soldiers’ lives.”
The troubled soldier who committed the act was later court-martialed, though the Army provided him with the necessary counseling to start to improve.
As a man of God, Matt Christensen has spent his career supporting and counseling soldiers in harsh environments. He prays with them, listens to them, and offers the best guidance that he can. As his Soldier’s Medal proves, this is one chaplain who is also not afraid to get his hands dirty to save another soldier.