By G. Anthonie Riis | Fort Knox NewsDecember 27, 2018
FORT KNOX, Kentucky -- Chaplain (Col.) David VanderJagt leaves a lasting legacy at Fort Knox, with programs the chaplaincy has designed to continue benefiting his flock after he's gone.
"It's my hope that the things that we've done to create synergy will continue way past my time here," VanderJagt said. "I've tried to care for all that before I leave here."
Much of VanderJagt's mission in caring for the Soldier and civilians' spiritual life revolves around caring for their marriages and families.
"We've been doing Strong Bonds [marriage enrichment getaways] for Soldiers for a long time. Here at Fort Knox, we've been able to get [the program] for civilians," VanderJagt said. "Through that, we've been able to directly benefit the garrison that doesn't have a lot of green suiters but has a lot of DA civilians.
"That aspect helps increase their capacity because obviously a happy civilian is just like a happy Soldier. They work better, they produce more. Their relationships are strengthened at home and as a result at the workplace.
"Having a healthy family, being a good worker, being a good neighbor all ties together," he said.
VanderJagt said there is no guarantee that the Strong Bonds program will continue, but the precedent has been set and the path has been blazed.
"That money was granted for that purpose. The request will continue, but it's always based upon monies available."
Another legacy of VanderJagt's time on Fort Knox is his work with young people through Youth of the Chapel.
"When I got here there was no youth program, and a good chaplain program that helps to maintain a good healthy spiritual life for the family must include the children," VanderJagt said. "I love working with teens and we decided that Fort Knox needed a program. That program has 50 to 60 junior high and senior high youth here every Sunday evening.
"We serve fun, food and fellowship with genuine love…their engagement in their own spiritual life increases dramatically when they incorporate with other teens."
It's VanderJagt's opinion that healthy spiritual growth in the home will spill into the streets.
"I'm a firm believer that you should have an expression of faith that's more than just attending church on Sundays. Faith is a walk of life," VanderJagt said. "Part of that is realizing that this work doesn't just happen here amongst ourselves. The sphere of what God's doing is happening across the world, and it's very important for people to get engaged in helping others.
"Mission trips increase vision, they open our eyes to the fact that God is doing great work around the world and He can use me in part of this work."
VanderJagt and members of his congregation have taken two adult and two teen mission trips to Haiti, returning from their last trip Dec. 8.
"We go there to provide a service to the people of Haiti, but what we get in return is much higher," VanderJagt said. "They get to participate in the work of God. From a Christian perspective, doing something He has called you to do is very important to our formation. Missions help us to see that God's calling on our life is not a Sunday morning call. God's calling on our life is the way we live."
While he might have spearheaded missions in his congregation, VanderJagt said the work is in good hands because others own the vision.
"The congregation is engaged in full. That focus then has allowed the whole group to come together, and everyone has a part," VanderJagt said. "We have a third teen mission already funded and 13 teens ready to start their training.
"We've tied missions to the congregation, and we've done that on purpose. Our missions come directly out of the congregation's offering plate."
VandgerJagt's retirement celebration occurred Dec. 14, but this pastor has no intention of heading to pasture himself.
"Even after 31 years of service, I've never felt this was a heavy burden. Even in Afghanistan or Iraq, I always felt service was good and if you view something as good it makes the burden light," VanderJagt said. "I enjoyed serving my country and I enjoyed serving God as a chaplain. It seemed a very short time because I truly enjoyed serving."
His love for God and country is certainly catching.
"On Sunday, the day after we returned from Haiti, my last act as a military chaplain, I baptized seven teenagers in our congregation," VanderJagt said. "Talk about ending on a high note."