Lieutenant General Merle Freitag (retired) of Wildwood, Mo., and Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel, Rev. Dr. Steven Hokana of Fort Bliss, Texas, received awards during the LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces Recognition Dinner, July 21 in St. Louis.
Freitag, former president of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, received the Silver St. Martin of Tours Medal — “the highest award our church body grants for exceptional, sustained meritorious service to God and country,” said Chaplain Mark Schreiber, director of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces (MAF). The award was given by the MAF Committee and the Synod’s Office of International Mission.
No more than one Silver St. Martin of Tours Medal is awarded each year.
“Lt. Gen. Merle Freitag’s brilliant military career — coupled with his selfless dedication to our chaplains, their families and the spiritual welfare of all our veterans — is demonstrated by nine years of faithful service on the Ministry to the Armed Forces Committee,” said Schreiber. “It is the unanimous desire of the committee and the church to recognize Merle for his accomplishments and thank the Lord of the vineyard for sending us such faithful servants.”
An Avon, S.D., native, Freitag retired as LCEF president in 2010 after 11 years of service. He served as chairman of the MAF Committee from 2004 to 2012, chairman of the LCMS Ablaze! Steering Committee and a member of the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission.
He was in the U.S. Army for 32 years, serving as comptroller of the Army (1991-94) and as director of the Army budget (1989-91). He retired in 1994. Freitag served two overseas tours of duty, in Vietnam and Korea. He received numerous military awards and decorations including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
He and his wife, Phyllis — who also was recognized at the MAF dinner — are members of St. John Lutheran Church, Ellisville, Mo. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Hokana received a Silver Telly Award for “Warriors of Faith — Military Men,” a five-part Men’s NetWork video Bible study he wrote and hosted. The program was produced by Lutheran Hour Ministries as an outreach tool to service personnel.
In the video, Hokana talks about serving in the military, the difficulties he has seen servicemen and -women endure, and how the church can help. The resource explores the issues of anger, guilt and forgiveness, grief and love. Click here for more information.
Telly Awards are given annually to honor outstanding film and video productions; web commercials, videos and films; and local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs. Telly statues are given in silver, the top prize, and bronze.
“Steve’s material is being used extensively by our local Operation Barnabas chapters [which] reach out to our veterans in the local community surrounding our congregations,” noted Schreiber.
“It’s excellent material and it opens up doors of communication,” he added. “Steve did a super job!”
Hokana has been an active-duty U.S. Army chaplain for more than 28 years. “His driving passion is a deep love for those who struggle through difficult life events,” reads a MAF statement. “He has written and spoken extensively on the topic of Christ’s power through painful issues of life.”
He is an active member of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, a Diplomate for the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and a Board Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains.
His military experience has taken him to the Middle East, Cuba, Bosnia, Germany, Alaska and a variety of stateside assignments.
He and his wife, Mary, have three children.
Updated Aug. 29, 2013