I’ve passed out underwater, been attacked by a great white shark, gotten stuck in a submarine torpedo tube, been wrapped like a cocoon in my buddy’s parachute at 18,000 feet, and collected my friends’ water logged bodies and parts from a plane that crashed next to the Arizona Memorial. During all of these times, I only reached out to God when I was desperate and needed him to rescue me.
During hell week for US Navy SEAL training, my swim buddy Paul and I were shivering so hard, we thought our teeth would fall out. I made a deal with God, “If you get me through this, I will follow you forever!” After graduating in Class 125, I took all the credit for surviving, and forgot my promises to God.
In Army Ranger School I lost 35 lbs, had trench foot, two broken toes and was failing because my map and compass “kept outsmarting me.” I started making deals again with God. I graduated in Ranger Class 8-84 with “I disease.” I told myself, “I did it!” and gave no credit to God.
After a 30-foot fall out of a helicopter, I found myself stuck with a rucksack full of Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) Rockets on my back, in the mud, as sniper bullets impacted the ground all around me. I made another quick deal with God and he rescued me. Once again, I took all the credit and considered myself bulletproof.
When I met my beautiful wife Elle, life changed. I now had a reason to live and a reason to stay home. I became a SEAL instructor, but despite the change in action, I still thought I was invincible and every night was still a drunken celebration of life.
One night, my daughter talked me into going to an Easter play at church. I sat in the back pew, close to the doors for a quick exit. As the Roman soldiers came down the aisle with live torches of fire, the heat hit the side of my face and God whispered, “This heat is where you’re going because you don’t have a relationship with me.” This time I heard him loud and clear, and it really did change my life.
After 18 years in the Navy, I decided to join the Air Force and became a PJ (Pararescueman). Instead of jumping from planes to kill people, I was now rescuing them. While serving as a PJ in Iraq, I woke up one morning to some commotion outside my tent. Everyone was excited about some Humvee tracks—the tracks I had created the night before when I got lost and unknowingly drove through a minefield. I should have been blown up that night but God spared me.
After retiring with twenty years of military service, I taught high school for four years before getting a job in Civil Service that deployed me to Fallujah. Our camp was getting mortared and fired on around the clock. People were dying left and right. I couldn’t make sense of the indiscriminate killing. I had never experienced this “sitting duck” feeling before—just wondering and waiting for my turn.
When I returned home from that deployment, I had changed. I didn’t realize it, but my wife saw it and thought I was having an affair because of my coldness. After many question-filled years, I was finally diagnosed with PTSD. This helped me understand why I’m hypersensitive to my environment and why I get anxious and frustrated so easily. Despite these issues, God has shown me why he put me on this earth: to walk and work with him. When problems come up, I concentrate on Jesus and am immediately filled with a peace that surpasses all understanding.
I’m now working with Marine Special Operations Command and just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with the woman of my dreams! Do I still have issues? Yes, but I’ve learned to trust God, because God is bigger!