“Freedom Isn’t Free”

by Ken Harris on May 30, 2010

The purpose of this sermon is to motivate the hearers to affirm to others – while tears, pain, and death still exist – to set aside time to commemorate those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom in which all Americans enjoys.

U.S. Army Chaplain (MAJ) Ken Harris, Jr. West Fort Hood Chapel

Memorial Day Worship Service Killeen, TX

30 May 2010

Soldiers (and family members of military members) should set aside time to commemorate those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom in which all Americans enjoy daily.

All Theologians seem to in agreement that Revelation is the “Hardness Book in the Bible”; Note: I’m inclined to believe that Revelation is both literal and figuratively;

Revelation 22:3 (NIV) No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him; Proverbs 30:5b (KJV) weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning; Isaiah 65:17-25 (ESV); Romans 4:1-12 (NIV); Memorial Day in History (This Day in History Channel); Revelation 21:4-27 (NIV); Revelation 21:4 (NIV) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away; Isaiah 65:17 (NIV) “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind; 2 Peter 1:12-14 (NIV) So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me; Hebrews 11:10 (NV); For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God; 2 Peter 3:10-13 (Peter’s reference to the New Heaven and New Earth); Genesis 1:1 (NIV) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; Revelation 1:9-10 (NIV) I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet;

I. ANNOUNCE THE PERICOPE: Revelation 21:4-8 (ESV)

II. READ THE PERICOPE: Revelation 21:4-8 (ESV)

III. READ THE TEXT: Revelation 21:4 (ESV) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

IV. PURPOSE: To motivate the hearers to affirm to others – while tears, pain, and death still exist – to set aside time to commemorate those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom in which all Americans enjoys.

V. SERMONIC THEME: “Freedom Isn’t Free”


Memory and recall is important.

It’s my opinion that it’s important for us all to remember and NOT to forget certain things.

Every married man knows that it’s important to remember and be able to recall his Wedding Date.

And, of course, every man knows the importance of remembering his wife’s birthday.

On the other hand, every wife should be reminded that “SHE CAN’T CHANGE HER HUSBAND”.

It’s important for every wife to never forget that HER HUSBAND will never be perfect!

Memory is important!


MOVE 1: Dictionary.com defines “memory” as the mental capacity … of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions … or of recalling … and recognizing previous experiences.

a. As an American Soldier or family member serving at West Fort Hood and worshipping in the West Fort Hood Community Chapel, today, many of us are living witnesses

b. AND WE, ALSO, RECALL that there is a price, and a cost associated with the freedom that we – and our fellow Americans – around the world – enjoy.

c. **Therefore, Today, I stand here to remind everyone under the sounds of my voice that it’s important to remember that “Freedom Isn’t Free”!

d. The Apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:12-14 (NIV) and I quote: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

e. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”

f. Yes, my brothers and sisters, there is a price that is often paid for freedom!

g. This price that has to be paid … doesn’t arrive to us by way of our postal service or friendly mail carrier/mailman.

h. But, strangely enough this price has to be continuously paid in order for Americans to continue to enjoy freedom and liberty.

i. History reminds us, this morning, that the price has never been free; and it has always been paid by way of DEATH.




a. From the Revolutionary War, – War of 1812, America Civil War, Spanish-American War, World-War 1, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War, – through the wars currently happening simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan.

b. History reminds us that “FREEDOM ISN’T FREE”.

c. With no respect of gender, race or ethnic heritage – the price has always been death. “FREEDOM ISN’T FREE”.

d. Today, we – the West Fort Hood Community Chapel Congregation – commemorate those that have served, before us, and have paid the ultimate price.

e. Only 1 percent of Americans serve in our Armed Forces. Tomorrow, let us not forget that Memorial Day belongs to the fallen Soldier, the fallen Marine, the fallen Airman, and Sailor.

f. My fellow Soldiers, brothers and sisters, Memorial Day belong to those that have paid that ultimate price.


MOVE 3: We have all been witnesses by way of history books, history channels, or boots on the ground.

a. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day.

b. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers … for the purpose of … decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country …

e. … During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery…

f. … after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.


MOVE 4: In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

a. They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

b. By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America’s wars.

c. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.

d. In contrast – Veterans Day is a day we (Americans) also set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, and it is celebrated each year on November 11.

e. On tomorrow – Monday, 31 May 2010 – Memorial Day will be celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag will be placed on each grave.


MOVE 5: It is also … customary – on Memorial Day – for the president (or vice-president) to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and …

a. … lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is estimated about 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

b. Many of whom will painfully share tears as they commemorate our fallen Soldiers.

c. Tears which will fall from their cheeks with salty memories of how each death must have affected the family members of those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

d. In Revelation 21:4 – The Bible reminds us all today … that although Memorial Day is very special …

e. and it’s a day that we should set aside to commemorate those that have gone before us …

f. There will come a time that believers will not always have the chance to remember …. Painful and TROUBLED TIMES …. Like Memorial Day …


MOVE 6: The very thought of memories will be obliterated by the many mercies of God.

a. God will even wipe all of our tears away (Revelation 21).

b. What wonderful changes there will be when we enter eternity!

c. Genesis 1:1 (NIV) reminds us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

d. And in our Scripture Reading today …

e. … John the Revelator … exiled … on the Greek Island of Patmos …

f. … Reminds us all that there is COMING a time when … God will dwell personally with His people in a glorious and intimate way in the New Jerusalem.

g. There will be no more tears, death, or sorrow.

h. The curse – described in Genesis 3:14-19 – that is responsible for tears, death, and sorrow will be removed.

i. Everything that came by way of sin will be removed and WIPED away …



There will be no more Memorial Services;

No more wars or rumors of wars …

nothing associated with pain will exist any longer …

So why we still have the power to remember … lets not forget that” Freedom Isn’t Free”!


VIDEO Heroes – Memorial Day – The Last Full Measure of Devotion

By Jerry Shirley May 23, 2007

What is a true hero? Many have given their lives so that we might live ours more abundantly!

Ephesians 3:20-21

What is a Hero? Say amen when you see a picture of a hero, and ‘boo’ when you don’t. [one-by-one slides of Britney Spears, 9/11 firefighters, American Idol judges, our military, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, President Bush, Jerry Falwell, Barry Bonds, Spiderman, and Wesley Autry who is the recent NYC Subway hero.

Mr. Autry was honored by the President during his state of the union speech recently, and was an honorary contestant on “Deal or No Deal” last Monday, turning down over $300k to go home with $25 [and a new Jeep!] Right after that was the season finale of NBC’s “Heroes”, one of their only successful dramas this year, which is spinning off “Heroes: Origins.” NBC also announced their plans to bring back the bionic woman! But are these real heroes? What is a true hero in God’s eyes?

Read Hebrews chapter 11 on your own for starters…it’s the “Hall of Faith”–what a great cloud of heroic witnesses have gone before us! And truly, anyone who gives their life to God is a hero. The same thing goes for serving your country. Many have died that we might live. May we never forget!

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It is a time in which we honor many of our nation’s heroes.

Everyone here can be a hero…one of God’s heroes. This morning I would like to share with you what it takes to be a true hero, a Christian hero. You see, a Christian hero is not some superman, endowed with a myriad of abilities and talents.

I. Belief in God’s Word

A. Today, many looked up to sport stars and athletes, movie stars and musicians as heroes. They are seen, as heroes because in many ways they do things that most of us can’t. But God’s heroes, the heroes of the Bible, were not men and women of extraordinary ability or talent but men and women of extraordinary faith. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called!

B. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

C. The heroes of the Bible all took God at His Word. Look at what it says about Abraham in Romans 4:18-20 “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

D. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

E. Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

F. Certainly God can use a person of great intellect, but only as long as his faith is even greater.

Most would say, of course I believe in God’s Word…but how about those commands you aren’t obeying, how about that passage you have rationalized away to not conflict with your lifestyle, and how has your daily Bible reading habit been going? Broke the habit? So, are you really a person of the Word? Are you truly one of God’s heroes? You should be…you can be…now will you be?

II. Commitment to God’s Will

A. Hebrews 11:13-14 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

B. Someone said, “A hero is someone who is sincere and does his duty. He is a man who really stands up and is counted.”

C. Joshua 24:15 “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

D. “It does not take great men to do great things; it only takes consecrated men.” – Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

E. Who is a hero? He who conquers his will. – The Mishna

F. Matthew 26:39 “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

G. The Holy Spirit chooses the nobodies of the church and makes them somebodies when they are committed to God’s will in their lives.

H. The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire for God.

I. We are to be consecrated to the will of God, to be and to do whatever he requires.

J. Psalms 37:5 “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

K. Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world. I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the kingdom of God on earth. -James S. Hewett.

Are you committed to God’s Will? Not only committed to following where He leads, but where He has already led? It’s one thing to pray about a big decision and do God’s will, but it’s another thing to make sure you are doing what is black and white that He has already commanded you to do! Are you one of God’s heroes? You should be…you can be…now will you be?

III. Devotion to God’s Work

A. James 2:18-22 “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. [19 ] Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. [20 ] But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? [21 ] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? [22 ] Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?”

B. I am only an average man, but I work harder at it than the average man. – Teddy Roosevelt

C. Heroism is faith transformed into action.

D. Matthew 23:11 “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

E. There is a Norwegian Proverb that says’ A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.” In Christ’s service the heroes are those who work until Christ says it’s time to stop.

F. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus is the ultimate hero…Who gave His life that we might live a life more abundant!

Are you one of God’s heroes? You should be…you can be…now will you be?

[outline and several key thoughts courtesy Gerald Flury]



The Last Full Measure of Devotion

The Memorial Day

Summary: Sunday is the ultimate “” when we take of the Lord’s Supper. The correlation to our nation’s “Memorial Day” is intriguing.

OPEN: Priscilla Larson, of Lexington, Massachutsetts, tells of the time her brother-in-law (a preacher) had been away from home one afternoon donating his blood at the Red Cross.

The preacher’s son was a little concerned when his father didn’t come home by the time he usually did, and the boy asked his mother, “Is Dad going around visiting all the sick people?”

His mother replied, “No honey, he’s giving blood.”

The paused in thought for a moment and then said: “But we know it’s really grape juice, don’t we Mom?”

APPLY: This boy knew that the communion cup represented the blood of Jesus and he had grown so used to the Lord’s Supper and what meant to his family that the very mention of “blood” reminded him of that part of Worship.

I. Paul is telling us here in I Corinthians 11:23-25 that Jesus wanted us to make communion so much a part of our worship experience that whenever we do it we should remember Jesus and what He did for us.

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Over the past few weeks we’ve been dealing with what’s called the “Great Commission” out of Matthew 28. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

Part of “Discipling” is to teach others to observe everything that He has commanded us.

Could communion be part of that “Discipling process?”

II. Jesus declared that whenever we take of the bread & of the cup, we remember Him.

Why would we have to “remember” Him?

Is it possible, that we might forget Him? I’m not sure, but I don’t know if it’s so much possible to “forget” Him as it is to forget WHO He was and WHAT He did.

In a lot of churches, Jesus is seen as a nice man, a great teacher, a powerful example. “BUT HEY”, this Cross thing. This blood and sacrifice. It just doesn’t seem to appeal.

ILLUS: Donald Nash once wrote in the Christian Standard that he has heard of some churches that have done away with Communion as part of their Morning Worship. These churches offer the Lord’s Supper as an option in a side room, rather than making it part of the main Worship Service. Why? Because it seems these churches want to appeal to the “seeker” crowd (those who visit “seeking” a church home).

These congregations apparently believe that communion is such a strange practice – and dwells so much on death – it would offend “seekers” and frighten them away.

BUT if observing Communion is one way of Discipling people, downplaying it’s observance would be a grave mistake. Placing communion off to the side would declare it to be less important than other activities in worship.

WE want seekers AND members to remember what Jesus did on the Cross – this is why the church meets! Acts 20:7 tells us “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.

III. But, why do we need to do THIS to remember Jesus and what He did?

Because we get so easily distracted by other things.

As an example: What is this weekend? (Memorial Day weekend).

Why do we call it “Memorial Day?” (a day to “remember” those who have sacrificed for us).

ILLUS: Memorial Day was 1st widely observed on May 30, 1868. It was originally known as “Decoration Day” because it was time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves.

After WWI, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America’s wars. And in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.

That’s what it is supposed to be all about… but what do people usually do on this weekend? Well, they go on picnics, they go to the beach, they spend time with their families and have cookouts and so on…

BUT there are a few that actually attempt to “remember…” In cemeteries across the nation, small groups of people will gather and observe a military service. There will be prayers and buglers will play taps.

Now, I’m not saying we necessarily need to feel guilty for not attending such activities. My whole point is that Memorial Day doesn’t have the impact it once had. AND because people don’t observe Memorial Day like they once did – it has lost much of the meaning it once had.

That sort of thing can happen to communion. That’s why it’s critical that seekers & believers be constantly exposed to the message of the Lord’s Table. AND That’s why we take Communion every Sunday. It’s part of DISCIPLING ourselves and new converts.

IV. For us old timers – communion is time disciple (discipline) ourselves.

I Cor. 11:28 tells us we should “examine” ourselves each time we take of the Lord’s Supper. It appears that Corinth had a unique worship service, and a unique problem because of it. Every Sunday, they had a pot luck dinner followed by the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

There was only one problem. At their pot luck dinner, if you didn’t have a pot – you were out of luck. The rich brought their steaks, the poor brought their soup. And nothing was shared. Like seemingly everything else at Corinth, this was one more issue over which the church was divided.

Because of the arrogance and selfishness of those who would not share, Paul told them God had already brought judgment upon their congregation – many were sick, and several had died. Paul warned them to examine themselves carefully before taking of communion so that they would avoid punishment from God.

For us old timers, Communion is time of judgment… self judgment. This is a time when we should do careful soul searching because Corinthians is telling us that God says: Don’t you dare take communion with your heart filled with bitterness, and unconfessed sin. God tells us: Don’t you dare eat that bread and drink that cup without 1st examining your heart & your behavior of the past week.


The communion Table is where we come face to face with our sin, AND face to face with the Jesus who died so we could have that sin removed.

V. In addition, for new coverts – Communion is the best witnessing we can do.

Paul writes: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) This is witnessing at its best.

Donald Nash tells the story of Robert Tinsky, who was reared in Judaism. Dissatisfied spiritually, he visited a Christian Church for the first time, seeking some religious truth. He was astounded by the observance of the Lord’s Supper. He didn’t understand it. He asked some young people seated near him what it meant. They faithfully told him the gospel story as portrayed in the loaf and cup. He was amazed that there was a God who loved mankind enough to give His Son to die for us and at the wisdom that originated such a living memorial. He became a Christian and a faithful preacher of the gospel.


ARLINGTON, VA – MAY 14: Sgt. Brian Scott, 30, with the 18th Military Police Brigade, sits at the graveside of his friend and gunner U.S. Army Spc. Michael Luis Gonzalez who was killed in action in Iraq on Memorial Day in Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday, May 31, 2010. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post) StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Mon May 31 16:29:01 2010

Combat Veteran Embraces Whole Health

Army Veteran Ricardo Martinez meets with Whole Health Coach, Rossyvette Harrington.

Army Veteran Ricardo Martinez meets with Whole Health Coach, Rossyvette Harrington.

April 7, 2021

Combat Veterans are known for their ability to respond quickly and decisively, but Army Veteran, Ricardo Martinez found himself facing an internal threat that required a Whole Health approach to attack the enemy of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

For more than a year, the Iraqi War Veteran isolated himself; and during that time he lost six people he cared about to COVID-19. “Everything got pushed down,” said Martinez, who served in the Army for six years, including time serving in the 82nd Airborne Division. Even trips to the park with his young daughter were off the table, as Martinez struggled to manage his condition on his own. Depression was ruining Martinez’s life, and he knew it.

Studies have shown that male Veterans with PTSD are more likely to report marital or relationship problems, higher levels of parenting problems, and generally poorer family adjustment than Veterans without PTSD. VA offers the kind of treatment and support that can bridge the gap between isolation and living a full life.

Finally, his fears of losing his wife and daughter prompted him to seek help at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) in North Chicago, Illinois for treatment of his PTSD.

For Martinez, this was the fourth time he entered the PTSD program, but this time he knew he would do whatever it took to heal. This time around, he was supported by Whole Health Coach, Rossyvette Harrington, and he quickly recognized it could make the difference. “Whole Health is lifting me up,” Martinez said. “Before, I just kept quitting. Whole Health gives me more resources. All you have to do is ask. You think there’s no one there to listen, but there is.”

“I’m open-minded,” Martinez said several weeks after he started his treatment and embraced the Whole Health approach. “Let’s try this. It’s up to me to see what I want to work on first, and I like that you go at your own pace.”

Lovell FHCC is the first and only fully integrated Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense (Navy) health care facility, serving military patients and their families, and Veterans in Southeast Wisconsin and Northeast Illinois. It has implemented the Whole Health system across the hospital.

Whole Health is a proactive approach to health care which equips, empowers and treats Veterans; allowing them to discover what matters most in their lives. “What I find most fulfilling about the Whole Health approach to care and Whole Health Coaching is offering patients the opportunity to tell their story,” Harrington said. “When our patients feel heard, they are empowered to take charge of their health and begin working towards wellness.”

Martinez used the Live Whole Health App to complete a Personal Health Inventory (PHI), a primary tool in Whole Health which offers the Veteran guidance to determine what’s important to you and what you want your health for. To fully understand what he wanted his health for, he worked on formulating his Mission, Aspiration and Purpose (MAP) and keeps that in the forefront of his mind. Martinez’s goal, the reason he wants his health, is to be a “better person, father, son, brother and husband.”

Of eight components of health and well-being, Martinez decided to first focus on the “power of the mind.” He practices exercises to help him relax, let go of his anxiety and pay attention to his heart rate and breathing. This, in turn, has helped him control his blood pressure. He started practicing meditation and mindful thinking several times a day using tools he can access through the Live Whole Health app on his phone.

Martinez has also been dealing with chronic pain from an accident that occurred while he was on active duty; and he plans to use Whole Health resources to learn about pain management and “ease off” some of his pain medications.

Martinez is reminded of his MAP every time his lock screen pops up on his phone and he sees the picture of his daughter hugging him and smiling at her first Chicago Cubs baseball game. The photo was taken the summer before he left home to get treatment and “it was one of my best days,” he said. “You always see the picture. It’s always a motivation.”

He says his ideal future is simple. “It’s being alive,” he said. “I want to see my daughter walk down the aisle.”

For a combat Veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, seeking help was “a feat in itself,” Martinez said. Attacking the enemy of PTSD and isolation has been one of the most successful battles of Martinez’s life, and he is grateful to have found this path for himself and his family.

“I want other Veterans to benefit,” he said. He can see himself in the future as a Whole Health peer facilitator, a role in the Whole Health system that allows Veterans to work with Veterans to create their own pathway to health and well-being.

For more information on Whole Health and how you can get started on your journey, visit www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/index.asp.

Written by: Jayna Legg, Public Affairs Specialist, Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center


Veterans Day Message

November 11, 2001

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.

Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor. These memorial gestures all took place on November 11, giving universal recognition to the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918.  The day became known as “Armistice Day”.

Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar Congressional action. If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was “the War to end all Wars,” November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, war broke out in Europe.

Years later, realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of WW II and Korea, Congress was requested to make this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

On Memorial Day 1958, two more unidentified American soldiers were brought from overseas and interred in the plaza beside the unknown soldier of World War I. One was killed in World War II, the other in the Korean War. In 1984, an unknown serviceman from Viet Nam was placed alongside the others. To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army Honor Guard keeps vigil, day and night.

As we remember those who have died protecting our freedoms, our message today will have a Veterans’ Day theme.  At the same time, we will explore what it means to be a member of the army of God – soldiers of the cross.

The freedoms we enjoy today, including the freedom to move from place to place as we wish, the freedom to elect our governing officials and the freedom we have to gather here in this place to worship – these freedoms and more were bought with a price.  We need only look at the recent events in the world, to be reminded of the enormity of that price. 

Every conflict we’ve ever been involved in has had its share of casualties, of sons or daughters lost, as well as sons or daughters returning home safely, sometimes to a hero’s welcome.  Every once in a while, during those conflicts, something happens, a soldier does something, which is so out-of-the ordinary that Congress acknowledges that person’s efforts by awarding them the Medal of Honor.  This award is presented to someone who distinguishes himself by gallantry at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life.

Two such individuals are George D. Libby and Douglas Albert Munro.

According to the official report, on July 20, 1950, near Taejon, Korea, while breaking through an enemy encirclement, the vehicle in which Sgt. Libby was riding approached an enemy roadblock and encountered devastating fire which disabled the truck, killing or wounding all the passengers except Sgt. Libby. Taking cover in a ditch, he engaged the enemy and despite the heavy fire crossed the road twice to administer aid to his wounded comrades. He then hailed a passing artillery tractor and helped the wounded aboard. The enemy directed intense small-arms fire at the driver, and Sgt. Libby, realizing that no one else could operate the vehicle, placed himself between the driver and the enemy thereby shielding him while he returned the fire. During this action he received several wounds in the arms and body. Continuing through the town the tractor made frequent stops and Sgt. Libby helped more wounded aboard. Refusing first aid, he continued to shield the driver and return the fire of the enemy when another roadblock was encountered. Sgt. Libby received additional wounds but held his position until he lost consciousness. Sgt. Libby’s sustained, heroic actions enabled his comrades to reach friendly lines.

The Medal of Honor was awarded to Petty Officer Munro as a result of his actions on September 27, 1942. Again, according to the official report, Munro, in charge of a group of 24 Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a battalion of marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz Guadalcanal. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered marines, Munro, under constant strafing by enemy machineguns on the island, and at great risk of his life, daringly led 5 of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its 2 small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was instantly killed by enemy fire, but his crew, 2 of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

There are many, many more such stories, but the picture is clear.  These men, and those like them, put their lives in extreme danger for their fellow soldiers, and, in some cases gave their lives, in order that the others might live.  It seems in every war, in every battle, almost without exception, such heroic actions occur, sometimes from individuals you would least expect.  I have no doubt that each time, in the days and weeks that followed, the recipients of such unselfishness were inspired to fight for their wounded or fallen comrades, perhaps with a greater zeal than ever before. 

In a small, Middle Eastern country nearly 2,000 years ago, that’s exactly what happened.  A closer look at this hero reveals some strong similarities to the heroes I just described, but also some significant differences.

His name was Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter.  Raised in Nazareth, the scriptures give us little or nothing to go on about his early life, other than the familiar Christmas story, the visit of the wise men, and the time when he stayed behind at the temple and his parents came to find him.  After that, there is a significant jump ahead in time to his adult life and his ministry among both His people the Jews, and many Gentiles as well.

But really – who would have expected such heroic action from this man.  The prophet Isaiah tells us there was nothing about him physically which would have hinted at the possibility of any heroics, not like we would like to picture our heroes.  Like so many of heroes of our present day, he, too, gave of Himself.  As St. Paul writes in Philippians 2:  “Christ Jesus—Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

To begin with, like the soldiers I described, and others like them, Jesus put himself in harms way, he endured pain and suffering for the benefit of others.  In Isaiah 53 we read: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

And He did it willingly, as Isaiah continues: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” And as Matthew records in his gospel, where not once, but twice, Jesus responded to the pain and suffering He was about to endure with the words, “Not my will, Father, but Yours be done.”

And, as in the case of Petty Officer Munro, Jesus willingly endured this pain and suffering on behalf of His people to the point of death, as Paul continues in that Philippians passage: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” Or as Paul describes for us in Romans chapter 5: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It’s at this point, however, where our comparison falls short.  The men and women of the military put their lives in danger for the sake of their fellow soldiers against other human beings.  The battle Christ waged was against something far more powerful and devastating.  The ultimate victory was not simply the taking of some important hilltop or body of water, or even one country over another, but one which secured our very souls—the victory over the power of the devil and of sin in our lives, and ultimately, the victory over death. 

In that victory, the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, like Douglas Munro or George Libby, inspired those who witnessed it or heard about it.  In his first letter, Peter, one of Jesus’ “lieutenants,” if you will, encouraged his readers with the lessons he learned from his commanding officer.  From 1 Peter 3:15 we read: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  Later in the letter, Peter’s words of caution and encouragement speak to us all when he says: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 

And the clearest, most dynamic example of how Christ’s life and death—and resurrection—inspired His people is the fact that we are gathered here today to sing hymns, hear the Word of God read and proclaimed, offer up our prayers of praise and petition, and encourage one another in our faith.

In spite of the wide assortment of issues that have created problems, the fact remains that America still has the most well-equipped and armed soldiers in the history of the world.  The weaponry we have, combined with the technology to use it, makes us seem quite invincible—or so we feel—until we recall the events of 2 months ago where we discovered our weaknesses at home.  We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that in a world of terrorist attacks, where individuals do not hesitate to give their lives for their particular cause or belief, we will never be totally protected and invulnerable.

But as Christians, we can be assured that on the spiritual front, it’s a different story.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”  And in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, Paul paints an even more specific and graphic picture when he describes the armor of God: The Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness; our feet are fitted with the Gospel of peace; we carry the shield of faith; we have the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.  That armor, combined with a life of steady and regular prayer, will indeed protect us from the temptations that come our way, and ultimately preserve us for a life of eternal joy in heaven one day.

The story is told of one soldier who lived with that confidence even as he found himself in the heat of battle.  During the Korean War, one man was hurt badly on the battlefield of Heartbreak Ridge.  His buddies were in a foxhole about 50 yards away when the man was hit by sniper fire in an ambush.  As the fire continued, the other men discussed amongst themselves what to do.  But since the sniper fire was too intense, to crawl out and bring back their wounded buddy would mean almost certain death.

For a while, no one would move.  The men in the foxhole could hear their wounded friend yelling for help.

Then one of the men in the foxhole began to look intensely at his own watch.  He could not keep his eyes off it.  All the others in the foxhole noticed this, and began to ask questions.  But the soldier with the watch remained silent.

All of a sudden, the man with the watch jumped out of the foxhole, and crawled over to his wounded buddy.  He then grabbed him by the nape of the collar, and very slowly made his way back to the foxhole, all the while sniper fire whizzing around.  Both amazingly made it back to the foxhole without additional injury.

After the sniper fire had died down, the man who saved his buddy was asked why he waited so long to crawl after his wounded friend.  To which he responded:  “My mom said every day at the exact same time she would be praying for me.  And according to my watch, I left the foxhole exactly when she started praying.”

We may not always receive answers to prayer in such dramatic fashion, and sometimes, even though our prayers may also involve physical protection or even the sparing of life, they may seem to go unanswered. But we have God’s promise that the ultimate victory in this world—the one which guarantees us eternity with Him—is ours, through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

As we go forth from this place on this Veterans Day weekend, let me encourage you to remember those who have served and continue to serve our country by seeking out opportunities to say two simple words:  “Thank you.”  Thank them for their commitment to their country and its freedoms.  At the same time, give thanks to God, also, for Jesus Christ, and HIS willingness to serve, His commitment to our spiritual freedom and our eternal salvation.  And then, be confident in your daily “faith battles,” knowing that you are equipped by God to be that faithful warrior that makes a difference in the world around you. 

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.


A Prayer for Military Families Remembering D Day

Let us remember that there are men and women far from their families and the comforts of home today – missing hugs and kisses, birthday parties and baseball games, praying for a safe return to the country and the people they love.

These are United States soldiers; some are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, parents, neighbors, classmates, friends. Others we have never met, but they risk their lives daily for our freedom, and there are so many who have risked their lives for our freedom in many years past.

Will you join us in lifting up these troops and their families? We may honor them on specific days, but their service makes a difference in our lives every day.

Dear Lord,

Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the men and women who serve our country now and in the past, and for the sacrifices their families make so that we can all enjoy the blessing of freedom.

We praise you for calling them to help protect us, and for giving them the courage and ability to do their jobs well.

Guide their choices and their actions, Lord. Help them to see you working in their daily lives, whether in the field, at home, or abroad.

Surround them with your mighty angels; protect them in your mercy; cover them with your grace.

Guard their hearts while they are far from loved ones, and bless them with moments to cherish when they are together.

Hold these families close, Lord. May they look to You for the strength and peace that only You can give.

In Jesus Name we pray,


While we continue to lift these brave men and women in prayer, why not take a moment (or two) to share your gratitude for their service and for their sacrifice. Below are a few ideas on how to reach out to U.S. soldiers as well as military families in your community or abroad:

Create a large banner with the words “God Bless You” and invite your group to sign it with their favorite Scripture. Send the banner to a deployed soldier and ask him/her to hang it up where it can be seen by many. Here are a few powerful verses to consider: Joshua 1:9Psalm 46:1Psalm 139:9-102 Corinthians 9:8Psalm 27:1

Set out markers and paper for kids (and kids at heart!) to color pictures for veterans, and then deliver the pictures with some cards of encouragement and thanks.

Find a military family in your community, invite them over for dinner and find out how you can help them. Deployed military members leave behind spouses, children and parents who must try to maintain life as usual while their loved one is away. In addition, they are often left to settle into a new community without the support of local family and friends.

Reach out to a soldier who has recently returned home – pray for them and their family during their time of transition.

Take a few moments to visit a Veterans Hospital, share some loving care, and pass out thank you cards with Scripture shareables.

Even if you don’t have a personal connection, consider asking neighbors, friends or family members if they know someone serving our country today. There are also many websites dedicated to coordinating correspondence with U.S. troops who need encouragement. Whether they’re across the street or around the world, they’ll be blessed to know how much they are appreciated.


Our Grief, Let’s Care For Those Who Hurt

Our grief

November 7, 2019 rduncanheart

With Veterans Day approaching, we know that many have experienced loss that is sudden! Their family and close friends have experienced grief! They were known and loved as they made a huge impact, giving their life for the freedom we experience. We can be so thankful that they cared not only for us, but for their country. Let us care for those who hurt!

Our hearts hurt when we know we may lose someone soon, that means a lot to us. Then they pass away and we go through stages of grief. At times, loss is completely unexpected such as an accident or due to a sudden health situation like a heart attack, stroke, SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy). Then there is suicide that leaves us in shock and we don’t understand at all what happened and why. This is becoming more common as more people are struggling with mental health issues.

Take this fainted heart
Take these tainted hands
Wash me in your love
Come like grace again

Even when my strength is lost
I’ll praise you
Even when I have no song
I’ll praise you
Even when it’s hard to find the words
Louder then I’ll sing your praise

I will only sing your praise

Take this mountain weight
Take these ocean tears
Hold me through the trial
Come like hope again


Sometimes though, we go through grief when there is no sickness or death, but because of separation from someone we love. We miss that person. We simply don’t understand. It hurts so much. Other reasons for grief and loss are: (http://helpguide.org)

  • Divorce or Relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home

The five stages of grief are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. People grieve differently. They don’t have the same order in which they grieve. http://psychcentral.com. This loss, grief can cause difficulty for us physically also. It can be very difficult for us to sleep, eat or think as we normally are able to.

When we have hope in knowing someone we love has eternal life, we grieve, but we don’t grieve as others do. We have an assurance that we will see them again in eternity. It really hurts though when we are not sure of their standing before God.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.


As this Veterans Day approaches, let’s pray for peace for those who grieve for friends and family lost to those who protect us and our liberties.

Our Grief – Let’s Care For Those Who Hurt

Program connects homeless Veterans to employment initiatives

HVRP delivers employment training, transportation, professional clothing, and more. And through the VA Homeless Programs Office, homeless and at-risk Veterans receive ongoing support services, medical care, and housing.

August 31, 2019

VA, DOL, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently met to promote housing stability and employment opportunities for Veterans. This partnership led to the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP), which provides Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless with the comprehensive support they need to obtain and maintain gainful employment.

HVRP delivers employment training, transportation, professional clothing, and more. And through the VA Homeless Programs Office, homeless and at-risk Veterans receive ongoing support services, medical care, and housing.

HVRP in action

Randall Sarrett, a Veteran who had experienced homelessness for almost six years, benefitted from the collaboration.

Sarrett met with Kaniko Neighbors, a vocational development specialist at VA Greater Los Angeles. After Sarret applied for a housing voucher with HUD-VASH, Neighbors connected Sarrett with HVRP.

Almost immediately after entering permanent housing through HUD-VASH, Sarrett landed an interview for an accounting position. But he needed professional clothing. That’s when HVRP stepped up.

Sarrett was given a round-trip Uber ride to a clothing store to choose a suit, shirt, tie, and dress shoes. His interview was a success, and he began employment at New Directions. Sarrett then needed casual work attire for his new job, so HVRP provided funding for work clothing, as well as a bus pass for his commute.

“Once Randall took advantage of VA’s and HVRP’s benefits, he said it was the best choice ever,” said Neighbors. “He still resides in Los Angeles and has been employed at New Directions ever since.”

And, since he was a “model tenant,” Sarrett’s landlord agreed to house another Veteran through the HUD-VASH program.

The HVRP program began in 1987. In the fall of 2018, Congress passed the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act, which expanded HVRP eligibility. Eligibility criteria were further expanded through a 2019 appropriations act. As a result of those changes, organizations that receive HVRP grants are now able to serve many Veterans who were previously ineligible.

DOL, VA, and USICH presented a series of webinars from July 30 – August 8, 2019, to ensure the successful rollout of the HVRP program expansion. To listen to the webinars, visit https://manhattanstrategy.egnyte.com/dl/xlbLgPEzhj/.

More Information

  • Visit VA’s Homeless Veterans website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.

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VIDEO Veterans ride their way to recovery

Horses teach humans new ways to deal with anxiety and stress

July 19, 2019


Veterans at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System are partnering with horses on their road to recovery.

While participating in Equine Assisted Learning workshops at the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy in Sarasota, Florida, Veterans in the Warriors in Transition program do a lot more than simply ride.

“What we do here is a lot of team building and grounding exercises,” explains Bay Pines Recreation Therapist Elizabeth Blankenship. “We learn about the horses, their behaviors, how they communicate with each other, and then we move into speaking about how we communicate and interact with others on a personal level and then draw a connection to what we’ve learned here, to our everyday lives.”

The goal is that by partnering with horses, Veterans will acquire new ways of coping with anxiety and stress. As prey animals, horses are highly sensitive to emotions and the messages behind them. Through observing how horses relate to one another and then interacting with the horses themselves, workshop participants learn to ask for space, set healthy boundaries, lead without force, relax without losing awareness and rebuild trust.

The program was developed by Terry Murray, a U.S. Navy Veteran, and Warriors in Transition facilitator, to help active-duty military and Veterans as they navigate the challenges of repeated deployment cycles.

According to Murray, equine-assisted learning can result in the growth of new brain cells. “There are biomedical changes in the brain that are occurring when people are in nature and are working with the horses in this environment.”

For U.S. Army Veteran Jesse Raoul, equine therapy has “helped me re-establish relationships with people that I’ve been dealing with. It also has helped me to learn to live a healthier and better quality of life.”

A horse, with the trainer and riderLong Description

Veteran Amy King (left) is introduced to a horse named Buddy.

The program “has helped me to connect the information I’ve learned in the classroom with real everyday life experiences,” says U.S. Army Veteran Amy King. “This experience has motivated me to really put in the work that it takes to get better.”

“You can’t reach everyone with conventional therapy,” says Bay Pines Recreation Therapist Jared Ezzard. “Some people respond better in this type of environment. We’ve seen Veterans who have had little to no interaction with people blossom here.”

Learn more about the Bay Pines Recreation Therapy program.

Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

All photos by Bay Pines VA Healthcare System 

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The forgotten pain of heroes: one man’s story

May 24, 2019 by jccast


Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life. Some seem destined for greatness, or at least something special, early on. Some appear to carry Lady Luck on their shoulders. And yet, for the most part, the majority of heroes have less than stellar beginnings, are saddled with nightmarish memories of the traumatic situations they survived (if they survived), and are extremely uncomfortable with the title hero.

Johnathan Courtney, the focus of this piece, fits the latter category. Though he received multiple citations for meritorious service (including two bronze stars) it is not just the singled-out actions that make him a hero in my view. It is the cumulative actions over a drawn-out period in harm’s way, along with shouldering leadership responsibilities in equally trying situations that merit the often difficult to bear title. Such duties, in John’s case, include a tour in Iraq. Part of the time as a platoon leader leading hundreds of successful combat patrols, part of the time as the company XO, and winding up as Battle Captain.

John 3a

By the completion of his tour John would be forever changed by his experiences. Due to his upbringing, his character, and the fact that he’s an alpha male in leadership positions he possessed an inflated sense of responsibility for the soldiers under him. The death of eight soldiers—seven directly and one by way of an investigation—would haunt John because of his sense of responsibility and the decisions he made regarding each. Decisions he never could have imagined during his early years.

John’s mother, Ellen, is Caucasian, and his father, Don, is Native American. He predominantly identifies as Native American, from the Wasco and Warm Springs tribes, having been raised on or near the Warm Springs reservation in Central Oregon throughout his childhood. Along with returning to Central Oregon to reside in Madras several years after his military hitch and the divorce of his first marriage.

John, for the most part, was an average student. Education didn’t hold much importance to him during his early childhood. The divorce of his parents and subsequent move off the reservation to the nearby town of Madras played a part in that. So did the cultural change in peer groups. And, eventually, the return of his father (parents remarried) after being gone several years created additional issues.

During the various life changes John struggled with anger and identity issues: his purpose in life, his place in the family, in society, etc. It seemed to escalate during his high school years. He began drinking as a sophomore. However, he also joined the R.O.T.C. during this period, which became a positive influence. After meeting Sgt. Randy Casey—a tough as nails Ranger that became his mentor—John felt a sense of purpose.

Similarly, John was torn with wanting to be like his dad—who, in his eyes, accomplished everything he set out to do—and sought his approval, but he equally struggled with anger issues against him over the divorce, remarriage, and other family situations.

John Profile Pic 2

The new sense of purpose seemed to drive John. While he still appeared to vacillate in some areas, like changing his college major five times—eventually earning a BS in Sociology—he tackled everything that came his way in the R.O.T.C.: scoring in the top 5% of the country.

Choosing a career in the military, John (now a Lieutenant) was stationed at Ft. Benning, GA, where he had previously attended Airborne training. It took two attempts to get through the elite Ranger training, having been held back on his first attempt due to a medical issue. But he had the drive and character to claw his way back and earn the right to wear the much-coveted patch.

John also received mechanized training, which prepared him for his next post at Ft. Carson, CO, where his initial job was the Asst. Battalion Maintenance Officer of the 112th Infantry Regiment.

Soon after his arrival John’s group went through a transition period. The 112th was phased out as it became part of a Combined Arms Battalion, a new self-sustained format. With John becoming the Platoon Leader of 3rd Platoon, “B” company (Bravo / Blackhawk) of the 168th Armor Battalion.

John Pi-ume-sha Grand entry

Following a lot of preparation, including war games at Ft. Irwin, CA, the 168th took its turn in Operation Iraqi Freedom. John deployed to Iraq in November, 2005. By mid-2006, his platoon had been on over 500 combat patrols without a single casualty among his men. An impressive string of skill and luck. Unfortunately, for John, it would not continue.

John, who had been handpicked by his Company Commander, Capt. Larry Sharp, to be the company XO (second-in-charge), was promoted to Captain and took over the Battle Captain position in July, 2006. A position which gave him responsibility for a vast area, including everything that took place outside the compound.

The first half of John’s tour, prior to his promotion to Captain, is viewed differently by him than the last half. During the interview he spoke of both positive and negative aspects of the deployment during the period covering the first half of his tour. But it became quite clear that his focus regarding the last half of the tour centered squarely on the negatives. In his own words, this period is when he “started getting lost in the head.”

Early on, John talked about the hundreds of successful patrols, about a time when he earned one of his Bronze Stars (with valor) “for going the wrong way,” how their company saved the town from being overrun, and how they took out the enemy’s second-in-command. Although, scattered within those tales were less positive but equally memorable tales of a grandfather and his grandson being killed, a young boy that smiled and waved to the GIs entering and exiting the compound daily found hung on the fence after being tortured to death for being friendly toward the Americans, and a rear echelon soldier being negligently killed by civilian contractors—the first GI death that John had to deal with personally as the investigating officer.

A subtle, but very noticeable change came over John when he began to speak of the last half of his tour. The period when 7 soldiers under his command were killed. The decisions and responsibility lay with John as the Battle Captain. And it is clear that he internalized each event and it festered like a cancer.

John returned home in November, 2006. Within a few months he was drinking to numb himself. After all, he’s an alpha male, an elite soldier, a Ranger, and an officer. Showing weakness is forbidden. An unwritten code—but a code nevertheless.

John’s life began to slowly implode. Over the next several years he lost his career, his marriage (and custody of his daughter, Kirsten), had difficulty getting and/or keeping jobs, increased his drinking continually, and eventually had to move from Colorado back home to Madras, OR. And when he did make the effort to get help—filing twice with the VA regarding PTSD, and trying to get help through the community services on the reservation—he was either ignored or given excuses why they couldn’t help him.

John 1

The only good thing that occurred during this period was his marriage to his second wife, Emily. But his situation began to put a strain on that marriage, as well. To the point that Emily finally gave John an ultimatum. That ultimatum was the catalyst that created an eruption. The eruption ended with John barricaded inside his home surrounded by armed tribal police. And John, who had suicidal tendencies from the PTSD and had previously attempted suicide, continued to drink. Which made some wonder if he was now trying to commit suicide-by-cop.

It is said that it is always darkest before dawn. It is also said that God works in mysterious ways.

The tribal police threw the book at John. He was charged federally with the felonies, and he was looking at a long prison term if found guilty and given the maximum sentencing. Luckily, a lot of things began to mysteriously fall into place for John. The right people were coming into his life at the perfect time and he was starting to get the help he should have been given years earlier. The judge also took notice of how quickly John was turning his life around with the help. Thus, eventually, John took a plea deal that kept him out of prison, but put him on probation for 5 years.

Unfortunately, the felony conviction caused John to be terminated from the good job he had acquired while waiting for his court date. And yet, like every other good thing that had been occurring during this period, a woman John didn’t know called and offered him a job. A job he is still successfully performing two years after being hired. He is the Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success Coordinator for Best Care (Whew! That’s a tongue twister. Who makes up these titles?) But seriously, he deals with programs set up for adults, youth, and veterans. And his very painful past is no longer a hindrance, it’s an asset when dealing with people having similar issues.

John Picture

John’s faith was shaken to the core through the awful period in Iraq and subsequent years of anger and alcohol abuse. However, through hindsight, he clearly sees God’s imprint during the situation. And, like other vets he’s been in support groups with, John has returned to his faith. He is the first to say that he is still working on his spiritual life and walk, but he’s putting the same effort to move forward in that area as he has in all other areas of his life. Similar to his time in the R.O.T.C. and the military, John has excelled in everything he’s done after getting a little help to get back on the right course. And he has already touched many lives with his story and his concerted efforts to help people on a daily basis through his job, as well as through his efforts with the VFW.

John 3

Like most true heroes, John is extremely uncomfortable with the hero title. He simply did his job to the best of his ability and took his responsibility for the men under his command seriously—so seriously that each death of a soldier through his decisions slowly ate him up inside. Because he cared too much, which always compounds the pain in war. Yet, the same character traits that made him a hero then make him a hero now to all those he goes above and beyond to help on a daily basis.

John likes the old hymn Amazing Grace, and the opening lines say it all: Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

John 2

I, personally, thank John for his service to the country and to his continued service to the community that he resides in. It is truly an honor to know him, and to call him…a brother in arms…and a friend.


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