Five-Oh-Ones to Watch 2024: Michael Jaques, Central Arkansas VA Healthcare System

If you’ve ever visited Central Arkansas VA Healthcare System in Little Rock, chances are you’ve met Chief of Chaplains Michael Jaques.

A humble leader with a kind smile and a passion for helping veterans, Jaques is known for going above and beyond to make those around him feel appreciated.

“Every veteran has signed their name on a blank check saying, ‘I’m willing to serve, even if it costs my life,’” Jaques said. “It takes a special type of person to do that. Our mandate as chaplains is to provide religious support to the veterans in our hospital. We offer Bibles, Communion and any other worship services they would normally do at home. I think that we have an actual connection because of our experiences, and this is what allows me to serve them best.”

Four years after moving to Arkansas from upstate New York, Jaques enlisted in the military in 1992 and quickly discovered an affinity for ministry. More than 30 years later, he continues to use his career to change lives for the better.

“I was a military intelligence officer for the first four years of my career,” Jaques said. “In the midst of the global war on terror, there was a lot of ministry over the years. I sensed a calling to attend seminary to become a chaplain candidate.”

In 2020, Jaques published a book, “A Chaplain’s Battle: Transcending Powerlessness in an Explosive World,” which addresses the feelings chaplains endure while supporting others through the most challenging moments of their lives.

“When I returned from Iraq and started my Doctor of Ministry program, I used my research project to explore the idea of powerlessness that chaplains and other leaders experience,” Jaques said. “Though it may feel that way sometimes, we are not powerless. One of the most important roles of my job is listening to our veterans. Many of them just want to express themselves and be heard. Being a safe person representing the divine is a magical thing.”

Over the past three years, Jaques’ team of chaplains has grown, improving from two to 11 chaplains per unit.