General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified on June 23, 2021, to the House Armed Services Committee. He said that the suicide rate among military personnel is so high that it affects the training and deployment of troops. In 2018, 326 active-duty troops died by suicide. Last year that number had risen to 377. All indications are that the suicides in 2021 will be well over 400. Representative Jackie Speier, who chairs the committee’s panel on personnel issues, called military suicides “a heart-wrenching problem.”
The military has placed increasing restrictions on chaplains and significant pressure on them to support Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, and LGBTQ belief systems. It has become increasingly difficult for them to hold Christian services. When I was in the army during the Korean conflict, there were regular Christian services. Additionally, chaplains were available 24/7 to help soldiers who struggled with war and our role in the conflict. As our society and the military become more and more secular, there is little support for the struggles that combat places on soldiers. Chaplains are not allowed to frame patriotism in Christian values. Is it any wonder that military suicides are increasing?
If you are convinced that there is no God and no life beyond this life, what is the motivation to participate in a war for America? “Survival of the fittest” does not suggest that a person should die for a political system that will never benefit them. In our lectureship program, we presented many seminars on military bases. We tried to help young military men and women see that there is a God and that the Christian way of life is worth fighting for. These sessions were voluntary, but many people of other faiths came to them.
Now we are not allowed to conduct a program on a military base or do anything on government property that smacks of Christian values. When my brother Bill wanted to be baptized into Christ at the Air Force base in Rantoul, Illinois, we decided to baptize him in the base swimming pool. When the military people in charge of the pool learned we were doing a Christian activity, they forbade us from using the pool. I had to baptize my brother in a motel swimming pool because the military would not allow any Christian activity on the base. That experience had a dramatic effect on the military enlisted men who were with us.
There is an old, false saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I know it isn’t true because I was an atheist in the army, and I was in foxholes and maintained my atheism. Many young men around me depended on their faith and the chaplain to get them through the military experience. I have to admit that they were better soldiers than I was. Christian values have always been the foundation of this country. Trying to turn America into a secular state opposed to Christianity has a great deal of collateral damage, including an increase in military suicides.
— John N. Clayton © 2021
Data from an article by Tom Vanden Brook in USA Today, June 24, 2021.