FORT BENNING, Ga. — A Fort Benning soldier’s heroic acts are earning him high honors. Chaplain Matthew Christensen now holds the Soldiers Medal — the Army’s highest non-combat award — after courageously ending a hostage situation. But it was his instinctual actions that prevailed more so than his soothing words.
Soldiers hail Christensen a hero, after he prevented a suicidal, homicidal soldier from taking lives in a hostage situation. While serving as the on-call duty chaplain, Christensen responded to an intoxicated soldier who was armed with several knives and machetes. When the intoxicated soldier grabbed an unarmed hostage soldier and put a machete to his neck, Chaplain Christensen saved the hostages’ lives.
“Despite the fact that he continued to ramp up his rage and his emotions, we were able to stay with him,” Christensen said.
It took a rear naked choke hold to ward off a threat that words couldn’t neutralize.
“That was simply from some wrestling I did in grade school,” Christensen said. “It’s probably the only move I know. And thanks be to God that it worked.”
Christensen says care and concern for his fellow soldiers stirred his bravery. He adds that in preserving life, he preserved opportunity for the soldiers.
“[It was] a chance at redemption, a chance to go back for another day,” Christensen said.
Christensen credits his wife Jessica for supporting him during the hostage crisis and after the situation. She calls the harrowing tale unbelievable. Even when staring death in the face, it was the family’s faith that calmed their fears.
“That’s always in the back of your mind, that something can happen,” Jessica Christensen said. “You always fear you’re going to get that knock on the door. “I don’t have to worry about that because no matter what, I’ll see him again in heaven.”
Christensen’s son now serves in the Army. His whole family flew in from Montana for the award presentation.