FORT KNOX, Ky. –
Proverbs 31:27 describes a virtuous woman as one “who takes care of the needs of her household.”
As a chaplain’s wife, Jade Jeon has opened her heart beyond the walls of her home to make the Army’s Soldiers and their families a part of her household. In one instance recalled by her husband, Chaplain Philip Jeon, Jade sought to comfort a service member’s family following the tragic death of their son.
“She knew this last Mother’s Day would be different in the absence of (the spouse’s) son,” Chaplain Jeon said. “(Jade) picked up a flower, decorated it, dressed it up and had me take it to the family.”
For months, Jade maintained contact and provided whatever support she could for the family. While a solitary act, it exemplifies just one of the reasons she was selected by Col. Timothy Gallagher, Commander of the 4th Cavalry Multi-Functional Training Brigade, to receive the Meritorious Public Service Medal this past Memorial Day weekend. According to the award, Jade “embodies the fighting Cavalry spirit of the Army, tempered by the sincere compassion of a loving and dedicated Spouse.”
As Col. Gallagher stated during the awards ceremony: “This is a day I’ve been dreading. This is the day we have to answer the question: ‘What are we going to do without Jade?’”
Col. Gallagher acknowledged 4th CAV’s great fortune in having the Jeon family, and how U.S. Army Cadet Command benefits from receiving the Jeons this month. He couldn’t help but share how proud he was to have Jade as a part of the team.
Lt. Col. Jeon echoes Col. Gallagher’s sentiments and recognizes the way his wife provides spiritual support every day.
“Jokingly, I tell her she has an unofficial, yet professional counseling service,” Jeon said. “Not just to me, but very frequently she will have very long conversations with her friends, many she has had for a long time in the military, and some she has never met.
“They will open up their heart and soul, and she will provide counsel and wisdom.”
Early in their relationship, national events heavily influenced the Jeons’ desire to serve. First came 9/11, then the footage of National Guard and Reservist soldiers supporting the emergency efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Married since 2003, the Jeons entered the service together as Lt. Col. Jeon, then a civilian minister, felt a pull to the armed forces to be a ministry to Soldiers and their families.
“It was an initial call, God was tapping on his heart,” Jade recalls.
Following her completion of her Master’s Degree in Music at Stony Brook University in New York, the Jeons went on to have two children, Christian, 17, and Faith, 13; and had to balance multiple moves from Alaska to the Hawaiian islands and across the United States. They eventually landed at Fort Knox, Ky., where Lt. Col. Jeon received his most recent promotion. Throughout it all, Jade has been at his side, and sometimes out front as a Family-Readiness Group (FRG) leader and well-known singer and piano player.
“I did a little bit of everything,” Jade said.
She helped build up the FRG during their time with 25th ID in Hawaii, supporting spouses whose soldiers were on a constant rotation of deployments. While stationed in Maryland, she started a new Chaplain Spouses Chapter recognized by the Chief of Chaplain’s as being one of the best. Since the Jeons joined the Army she has been an active member of the Protestant Women of the Chapel.
For the members of 4th CAV, Jade’s presence is remembered by the way she fills their senses with the sound of her operatic voice—having sung at memorials and events.
“She is a very gifted singer, and when she does, I’ve heard that when she sings, she brings healing to their soul,” Lt. Col Jeon said.
While her singing often resonates into the hearts of the those around, her silent presence helped give strength following the 4th CAV Unit Ministry Team’s own tragedy.
In September of last year, 4th CAV Religious Affairs Specialist Master Sgt. David Shaw passed away unexpectedly. The husband, father and grandfather, had been a caring and open resource for 4th CAV Soldiers and a battle buddy for Lt. Col. Jeon. Always a spirited talker, Lt. Col. Jeon had someone he could converse with on their many trips and duties as Observer-Coach/Trainers.
Well-liked by his peers, Master Sgt. Shaw’s death left a void, not only for Chaplain Jeon, but across the brigade.
“I became immediately numb,” Chaplain Jeon said. “I was in a state of denial, but at the same time, I was just balancing that initial impact with the reality of the situation.”
“(David) had some really broad shoulders,” said Jennifer Shaw of her husband “He could feel the pain of the people unloading on him, but he could carry it.”
After her husband’s passing, Jennifer continued to seek meaning during her regular Bible study, and when it came time to read the Book of Job, she hesitated. During such a rough time in her own life, she didn’t know if she could read the chapter addressing the question of why God permits evil in the world, emphasized in the protagonist’s continued suffering.
“I was thinking about Job’s friends, and we always hear about how Job’s friends gave him terrible advice,” Jennifer said. “But they sat with him for seven days and didn’t speak until Job spoke first.
“That was Jade, the quiet presence there and comforting.”
As she demonstrated, time and again, Jade continued to involve Jennifer in the unit’s activities—Jennifer even attended the recent 4th Cavalry Brigade Ball—and maintained a supporting presence.
It’s a pillar she will continue to provide for her family and especially Chaplain Jeon as he transitions to a new unit and new responsibilities.
“She is my grace, next to God,” he said. “She is my greatest confidante source of support, somebody to lean upon and dump stuff on since I began my military career.
“All of us have issues, but whenever those issues arise, personal issues, at least for me, I know I can go to my wife and kind of empty out the garbage can. She will hear me out without any preconceived judgment.”