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Education

What Does an Army Commander Think of Memorial Day?

05.01.2019

Meet Commander Joe Hilbert, a Moody alum.

 

“Every day I come to work and make decisions, and I’m always trying to do it for the Lord,” Joe says. “I always think, Am I leading in a way that’s bringing glory to God?

 

Most second graders dress up as pirates or princesses for fun—Joe Hilbert dressed up as General MacArthur. “I had the corncob pipe, the glasses, everything,” Joe says. “All my life, all I ever wanted to be was an army officer.”

But after coming to Christ in his youth and getting more involved at his church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Joe began to feel uncertain about his plans. “I felt like God was calling me to be a minister,” he remembers. “But I had this tension, because I really wanted to be an army officer!” He looked into ministry training schools and found Moody Bible Institute and Moody Radio’s Chattanooga station. “Moody was a solid evangelical school with solid teaching,” Joe says. “But it was also tuition-paid! That was the driving factor for me.”

So, like Gideon from the Old Testament book of Judges, Joe laid out his “fleece.” “I applied to Moody Bible Institute, and I applied to West Point,” he says. “I thought, God, if you want me to be an army officer, get me into West Point. If you want me to be a minister, get me into Moody.” He was accepted into Moody.

 

A mistaken calling?

 

But within six weeks of starting classes, Joe realized that even though God brought him to Moody, he was not called to be a pastor.

“I knew then that I really was supposed to be an army officer,” Joe recalls. He reapplied to West Point but didn’t get in. Wanting to stay at Moody for the biblical and theological training, he found an ROTC program in Chicago and joined it after his sophomore year. Two years later, in 1993, he graduated from Moody and was commissioned as a second lieutenant at the graduation ceremony.

Over the next 26 years, Joe and his wife, Beth (Moody grad from the class of 1991), moved from place to place as Joe held different positions of service for the US Army, including time in Haiti, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

Currently, he serves in Hohenfels, Germany, as the commander of an operations group for the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, a US Army combat training facility that trains units for deployment and combat.

Over the years, Joe has brought his notes from his Moody classes with him everywhere he’s moved—even overseas to Germany. “If we’re studying something in a church small group that I learned about at Moody, I pull my notes out,” he says. “I go through them to remember what the professors taught. Moody taught me how to live out my faith in a practical way.” 

Keeping and reviewing his class notes has helped Joe live for Jesus every day, but he’s also grown in his relationship with Christ because of his access to Moody Radio. “I listened to Dr. Mark Jobe two days ago on Moody Presents while I was at the gym,” Joe says. “My podcast selection has everything from news to international affairs. It’s nice to be able to have Moody Radio on that list.”

Because friends of Moody supported students like Joe, now he’s striving to live every day for the glory of God, even at a combat training center in rural Germany.

 

3 Memorial Day questions for Commander Hilbert

 

As an army officer, how do you feel about Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is set aside to pause and think about and honor those who have sacrificed.

It’s a great holiday. As I enjoy spending time with family and friends, I think those who have sacrificed would want us to do that. But I also take time to reflect on lives that have been lost. There’s one particular mother whose son I served with—he was a phenomenal young man. I think about him and his mother, and how she’s grieving. She’ll mourn his loss for the rest of her life. His teammates will too, out of respect for him.

We should absolutely enjoy the day, our blessings, and the time with family. We should also think about what Memorial Day really means, and honor those who have sacrificed for freedom.

How have you learned to deal with loss?

I don’t know how to deal with it, short of an eternal perspective. And that’s even hard, because the eternal perspective doesn’t always have a happy ending. But living for the now can lead you down a dark path. Grieving without an eternal perspective is hopeless. When our team loses a member, we talk through how we grieve together. It’s heavy, but it’s hopeful.

How do you live out your faith daily?

I live out my faith through the decisions that I make and the professionalism that I bring. Several years ago I became impressed with the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worked for some very horrible kings, but they were elevated to positions of authority and responsibility. They didn’t violate their faith to get there; instead they gave the king fantastic advice about how to run his kingdom.

I was challenged by that. Every day, regardless of who I’m working for, when I come to work and make decisions, I’m trying to do it for the Lord.

I always think, Am I leading in a way that’s bringing glory to God?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a congressman, a military officer, or a bank teller—your work is a witness. Why you work and how you work is a demonstration of who you are and Who redeemed you.

 

 

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