UPDATED 5/17/08 5:31 p.m.: KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- An East Tennessee soldier has been killed while serving in Afghanistan, but loved ones say he was doing more than just serving his country. He was spreading the word of God.
Jason Hovater was a husband, a youth leader, and a soldier; but through it all his friends and family say he was sharing a very important message.
The 24-year-old was serving in Afghanistan for the U.S. Army, and he was days away from returning home to his wife and his beloved church.
Youth pastor Paul Bradbury says, “He wanted to serve, whether it's here, he didn't want to just come to a church or be a part of a country, he wanted to serve, it was something he wanted to do since he was a young guy."
Jason started attending New Covenant Fellowship Church in North Knoxville when he was 17 years old.
Church administrator Vickie Pettitt says, “We realized Jason really had a gift that God had given him to worship and lead others in worship."
He mentored youth and spread his faith through music, and took that message around the world through church mission trips.
Pettitt says, “His heart came through his music, that's who he was…with that sweet smile he could melt your heart instantly."
Jason was a private first class based in Italy.
Bradbury says, “If there was a way for Jason to die, it would be giving his life so other people could be free."
Paul says he learned something from Jason, and that’s that war can have a higher purpose.
Bradbury says, “They're history makers, they're going down in history because they're giving up what some would say are the best years of their life to do something for a whole other nation they don't even live in, and for our nation."
His friends and church family say he spent everyday of his life serving
Pettitt says, “He wanted his life to matter and he wanted to do things that counted."
We sat down with Jason's wife just a short time ago, and she says he left a mark on everyone that knew him.
Jenna Hovater says, “I feel just so thankful to have been a part of his life."