In February 1983, I was deployed to north-central Alaska with the 6570th Security Police Squadron from Brooks AFB, TX for “Operation Brim Frost.” It was a joint Army-Air Force exercise to train for combat in arctic conditions. The temperature was minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit when our C-130 troop transport landed on the makeshift runway of Alaska’s frozen tundra. For three weeks we lived in tents and “defended” the arctic outpost. Cold and darkness reigned. The sun peered across the southern sky for only six hours each day. Depression easily set in. But it was only for three weeks, and we were back in Texas. Ft. Wainwright is a permanent army post in Fairbanks, Alaska where soldiers are stationed for years at a time.
Last month, Pastor Dave Coleman sent me an article from USA Today that identified Ft. Wainwright as the “epicenter of military suicides.” I regularly watch news reports and read of articles about the troubles and tragedies our nation’s law enforcement officers go through. In addition, as an Air Force veteran, I’m also drawn to news about our military members. This one caught my attention.
The article reports that soldiers stationed at the frigid army post are often beset by “homesickness, failing relationships, financial problems, substance abuse, and suffocating isolation.” Eighteen-year army veteran Staff Sergeant Jonathan Baker was one of those soldiers. The 38-year-old sergeant wanted help but was afraid seeking help might end his career or cause him to be reassigned, and again forced to move his wife and three children.
He drank a bottle of tequila and “Suddenly suicide became an option. [However,] the thought of his children growing up without a father gave him pause. At work the next day, his supervisors noticed his appearance and sent Baker to the behavioral health clinic. There he filled out forms, acknowledging having had suicidal thoughts. He was told to come back a month later. A month? Baker had heard stories like this from other soldiers serving with him. Now he knew they were true.”
Major General Brian Eifler, commander of US Army Alaska, said, “COVID is a challenge, but it’s not killing our soldiers. Suicide is. This problem with suicide has got my full attention. I think about it every day.”
The Strong Blue Line Ministries wants to help the soldiers stationed at Ft. Wainwright reject the suicide option by giving them a copy of Suicide is Not an Option: Home in Man’s Search for Meaning. We secured special pricing for the books at $6.75 each. That includes packaging, handling, and shipping. At this special price we can ship a case of 48 books for only $324. We need 150 cases to provide each soldier with a book. Please consider supporting this special ministry. To see a video, buy a case, or donate any amount, click here.
Army Chaplain (Ret.) Rev. Bob Collins says, “In Suicide is Not an Option, Tim takes us on a journey. The reality of suicide and its impact on those left behind is never in question. It is however, seen more clearly as we read these pages, filled with examples that touch both the heart and the imagination. The issues of hope and faith are key. Relationships with those we know, family, friends, co-workers, and those in our congregations become more important. The Gospel message is presented clearly. Hope in Christ, in relation to our battle with suicide, is discussed in a manner I have never experienced before. As a retired Army Chaplain, during my 25 plus years of active duty and National Guard service, I was asked regularly to provide the annually suicide prevention and awareness training. This training was scripted to Army standards. The spiritual aspect or our being was rarely, if ever, part of the actual curriculum. Finally, a book that speaks to the reality of this truth, ‘It is Christ in you, the HOPE of glory.’ Thank you, Tim, for this. Needed today!”
Pray for your police.