It's A Dirty Job - June 30, 2018
James Collins: James Collins

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12a

In 1966 USC lost 51-0 to Notre Dame. After the loss, USC Coach John McKay told his team, “All those who need showers, take them.” It is not possible to be in a battle without getting dirty. We are in a spiritual battle today. Suicide is no longer a whisper on the lips of someone we don’t know. It is close to home and it affects us daily. Most of us have known someone who took their own life.

On February 6th, 2015, Corporal Michael Steven Flannery committed suicide in Afghanistan. At the time, I was serving in California as an Army Chaplain. I was given the assignment to go tell his father that he was dead. Michael’s dad was named Randy. Randy was devastated by his son’s death. I preached Michael’s funeral on February 27th, 2015. After the funeral, Randy went home. He sat down on the edge of his bathtub. He took a revolver and put it to his temple and blew himself into eternity.

Since, Randy was a veteran, the Flannery family asked me to also preach his funeral. Two weeks after Michael’s funeral, I stood at the same cemetery and preached his dad’s funeral. After the service, I was talking with the family. They all told me that Randy had always been so full of life. They said that he was a believer. They told me that he read the Bible every day. They said that he only listened to Christian music and that he would go around all the time singing praises to the Lord. But when Randy got the news that Michael had died, he lost all hope. He didn’t rest. He didn’t sleep. For three weeks, he did not sleep at all. He was so exhausted that he killed himself. The devil physically wore him down until he took his own life.

This past week, another veteran took his life. Scotty was suffering from PTSD. Years of suffering and the loss of the ability to function normally took its toll. The demons kept coming at Scotty until he just gave in and gave up. He took his life. His family is devastated. I didn’t even know him. But, his death has affected me. I hurt as well. I failed him.

I take it personal when a Veteran commits suicide. I invested a large portion of my life serving America’s Service men and women. Now that I am retired from the military, I am investing my life serving our great Veterans. I am fighting to support them in emotional, marital, social, physical and, above all, spiritual ways. When one commits suicide, it hurts me. I failed them.

Over the years, I have lost many to the demon of suicide. I keep their names written down in the back of my Bible as a reminder. I don’t ever want to forget them. Jonathan. Greg. Robert. Thomas. Nicholas. Benjamin. Sam. Larry. Michael. Randy. Did I miss the warning signs? Why didn’t I do more to help them? Could I have said something that would have made a difference? My heart aches for the loss of these warriors. I am devastated over the pain that their family feels. Their faces keep me awake at night. I failed them. I am a failure. But I will not give up. Until all of our Veterans are in full recovery from the hellish effects of war and its memories, I will not give up. When God called me, I knew that it would be a dirty, messy job.

The point is: One active-duty, military warrior commits suicide every day. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. They are our national treasures. The devil convinces them that there is no hope. When they lose hope, the last line of defense against suicide is lost. But there is hope. His name is Jesus Christ.

Next week, our nation will celebrate Independence Day. As you are enjoying your cookout and fireworks, remember this nation was built on the sacrifices of our veterans. If you are a veteran and you are hurting, God is here for you. He will never give up on you. Neither will I.

Sorry, I have to go shower. It's a nasty world out here.

James Collins is a retired U.S. Army Chaplain. He currently serves as the Pastor of Fort Scott’s First Southern Baptist Church. If you are a veteran and you need someone to talk to, you can call him at (620) 223-2986.

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