FORT HOOD, Texas – Soldiers choose to serve for any number of
reasons, whether to support their families, to follow in a
relative's footsteps, to make a better life for themselves, or
simply to ensure a better life is possible for other Americans.
One Ironhorse soldier chose the path of service for a different
Maj. Marshall Coen, the chaplain for the 1st “Ironhorse”
Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, made the decision to
pursue a career in the Army, because he felt a higher power needed
him to serve not only as a soldier, but as a chaplain.
Maj. Marshall Coen (right), a Killeen, Texas, native and
chaplain for the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry
Division, gets pinned by his wife, Jill, also a Killeen native, at
his promotion ceremony on Dec. 3, 2013 at Fort Hood, Texas. “We're a
team,” Jill said. “If I'm not going to be supportive, it's not going
to work.” (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Paige Pendleton, 1st BCT PAO, 1st
“The Lord led me in this direction,” said Coen, a
Killeen, Texas, native. “It was a call.”
self-identified Army brat, Coen grew up in a strong
Christian family travelling the world through his father's
quartermaster officer career. Initially, Coen was not
interested in pursuing a life involved with the ministry or
“The Lord began to really instill in
my heart and in my life that he had a higher calling for
me,” Coen said.
After his freshman year of college,
Coen decided to work on a degree toward ministry. Upon
finishing his undergraduate degree, he served as the youth
minister at the First Baptist Church in Killeen.
During that time, Coen reconnected with a young lady in the
congregation he knew from high school and married her in
Also a native of Killeen, Marshall's wife, Jill,
felt they had a comfortable life.
military chaplains began visiting their church.
chaplains) just started talking (to us) about the
chaplaincy,” Jill said. “We started thinking something new
Marshall and Jill felt as though their
lives were being pointed in the direction of the Army.
“The Lord slowly began to instill in (us) that he did
not call us to be complacent,” Marshall said. “He did not
call us to be comfortable, safe and secure in ministry. He
called us to take risks, to step out on faith.”
Marshall decided to join the military, he resigned his
position at the church and took steps to become an Army
While attending seminary to work on a
master's degree in divinity - a requirement necessary to be
an Army chaplain - Marshall's father swore him into the Army
as an officer at his commissioning ceremony in April of
Maj. Rich West, the 1st Cavalry Division Family
Life Chaplain, said he believes most chaplains share the
same sense of calling that Marshall felt.
like God has led them and guided them and put this burden on
their heart to join the military to care for Soldiers who
are deploying and to provide religious support,” said West,
a native of San Diego.
West said Marshall is
passionate about caring for Soldiers, and in his supervisory
role that includes caring for chaplains in the battalion's
When Lt. Col. Addison Burgess, the 1st
Cavalry Division chaplain, needed a chaplain to serve the
Ironhorse Brigade, West said he was looking for two
qualities in particular.
“Marshall is one of those
unique Army chaplains that has a really good balance of the
professional military officer skill set coupled with strong
pastoral personality and skill set,” West said. “Chaplain
Coen has both of those qualities excellently balanced and in
high measure, and that's what Chaplain Burgess was looking
Through his charismatic, approachable and
energetic personality, it really shows that Marshall cares
for his soldiers, West added.
When people see him,
Marshall said he hopes they see his good qualities, but most
importantly, he hopes they see the love and light of the
“There are potentially a lot of people that are
hurting in the Army,” Marshall said. “Hurt can manifest in
different ways, but joy and hope can penetrate the hardship
of the military.”
At the beginning of his career,
Marshall said his goal was to be true to his roots and
calling, and to make sure his family was taken care of.
“My father modeled for me what was important which are
faith, family, then career,” Marshall said. “I see some of
the sacrifices that are required, and I understand what's
Along the way, Jill has remained
supportive of Marshall's career even when times were tough.
“We're a team,” Jill said with a smile. “If I'm not
going to be supportive, it's not going to work.”
biggest challenge for Jill is when Marshall can't be home,
she said, adding that flexibility and her military
upbringing helped get her through those times.
said her most rewarding moment was during Marshall's second
deployment to Iraq in 2010. She was ready for him to be
home, but had a change of heart after seeing a photograph.
“I remember seeing a picture of him baptizing a Soldier
in Iraq and thinking, ‘That's what this is all about,'” She
said, tearing up. “He's away, (and) it's for a greater
purpose, so I can handle it. It made it a lot better. It
made it worth it ... I think that was my proudest moment to
see the fruit of all of his work on a spiritual level.”
He recalled the baptism as one rewarding moment of his
career, but said his most rewarding moment was coming home
from deployment and seeing his wife and family.
Marshall, the father of three boys, said his greatest
accomplishment is his family.
“The strength of the
soldier is defined by how the home is,” Marshall said. “My
success is very much defined by the support I get from
family. It goes a long way to have support.”
By U.S. Army Pfc. Paige Pendleton
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