We celebrated the 90th birthday of Charles Hoenke at Zion a while back. His family had an open house for him with a big birthday cake. The cake featured the U.S. Marine Corps Seal. If you do not know what it is, it is the fouled anchor in the globe and an eagle carrying the motto “semper fidelis” – always faithful. It was a big deal for me because my admiration for those who served is boundless and we are losing our veterans from WWII at the rate of 740 a day. I have always tried to get the Vets that I know to recount some of their experiences and it is a difficult task. They are proud of what they did and what contributions they made but they are hesitant to talk about it too much.
Charles served in the Pacific Theatre and saw some tough action. I have read everything that I can get my hands on about the Marine Corps and their service and the battles they fought and won at horrendous cost. Their defeats are also the stories of legend. Wake Island and the fight to hold an Island that was almost simultaneously attacked along with Pearl Harbor is historic. The Marine defense was so strong that two of the Japanese carriers that attacked Hawaii were sent to Wake to finish the Marine resistance. They held out for three weeks.
This was the time in during WWII when folks said the news was all bad. Japanese and German victories mounted and even though the U.S. Navy won a great victory at Midway morale at home was bad. Then came August 1942 and two events were to take place that would capture the imagination and hope of the American people. The first was the landing of the Ist Marine Division on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on the 7th; the second was a daring raid on Makin Island by two companies of the 2d Raider Battalion on the 17th and 18th.
Many more battles would be fought and the names would go down in history. Tarawa, Peleliu, Saipan, Okinawa and Iwo Jima all have amazing stories of courage and valor and loss. Through all of these the motto Semper Fidelis was upheld.
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has a ministry to the Armed Forces and through the Board of International Missions Chaplains are called to serve in those forces. Since the Civil War, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastors have served as military chaplains. Today, the LCMS’ Ministry to the Armed Forces supports 173 chaplains. Among these chaplains, 70 are active duty LCMS chaplains and 80 are serving Reserve and National Guard units. LCMS’ Ministry to the Armed Forces also supports 23 Civil Air Patrol chaplains. In thanksgiving for Charles service the Director of the Ministry, Craig Muehler sent Charles a congratulatory letter, a certificate of appreciation, a challenge coin and dog tags. Muehler has a connection with the Marines and with North Dakota.
A native of Springfield, Ill., Muehler grew up in South Dakota and Missouri. He received his bachelor’s degree from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., in 1984 and his Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1988. He earned his Master of Theology in Pastoral Counseling from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., in 2001. In 1986, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy theological student program and attended the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center. After his ordination in 1988, he became part of the Navy Chaplain Corps, serving as a chaplain in the reserve while also leading St. John’s Lutheran Church in McClusky, N.D., as its pastor.
Muehler was called to active duty in 1991 and reported for his first assignment as staff chaplain for Destroyer Squadron 31, where he completed two deployments in the Western Pacific. From 1993-97, he served as staff chaplain for the Service School Command, Naval Training Center and Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill. Muehler was then assigned to Kunia, Hawaii, where he served as chaplain for sailors, marines, soldiers, airmen and National Security Agency civilians from 1997-2000.
Muehler was selected for post-graduate school in 2000 and attended Trinity International University. Upon earning his master’s degree, he served as senior chaplain aboard the warship USS Inchon in Ingleside, Texas, and supported the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, through 2002. Muehler reported to the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003, serving the 2nd Force Service Support Group at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and deployed overseas in support of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” In 2004, he deployed with Combined Joint Task Force–Haiti in support of “Operation Secure Tomorrow.” From 2005-07, then-Commander Muehler served as deputy wing chaplain for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) in Miramar, Calif., deploying in support of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as the 3rd MAW chaplain from 2006-07. Muehler next reported as deputy chaplain at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif., from 2007-09, where he supervised the Clinical Pastoral Education program and ensured spiritual coverage for the newly formed “Wounded Warrior” unit. From 2009-11, Muehler, now a Navy captain, served as the division chaplain for the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan. In July 2011, he reported to the Office
of the Chaplain of the Marine Corps, where he served as deputy chaplain of the Marine Corps
until his retirement in 2014.
Now in charge of the LCMS ministry to the Armed Forces Muehler was very excited about Charles service and our chance to honor him at his 90th birthday celebration.
Semper Fidelis – always faithful. Charles has been always faithful to his country, family, church and most importantly to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is always faithful in love and mercy and grace. So once again thank you Charles for your service to country and family and church and many blessings.