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'Black Hawk Down' soldier shares experience

October 30, 2010 : Paul McLinden and Allison Cundiff

  • Watch Jeff Strueker's convocation message here.
     

U.S. Army Maj. and chaplain Jeff Struecker captivated Liberty University students in convocation on Friday, Oct. 29, with a riveting tale of fearlessness, bravery and discipleship, challenging them to “not be ordinary” and transform the world wherever they go. 

In 1993 Struecker led a humanitarian aid mission in Mogadishu, the lawless capital of Somalia, which soon turned into a gruesome firefight that claimed the lives of several men in his unit. The battle is best known from the book “Black Hawk Down,” which was published in 1999, and made into a movie in 2001.

After rescuing downed personnel and escaping a hailstorm of bullets, Struecker was ordered to go back into the city to rescue the Black Hawk pilots, who were surrounded by hostile fire. Feeling unprecedented fear, Struecker recalled Matthew 26:39 where Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane before his death, saying: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” and then, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Struecker reasoned that he would either go home to be with his family or home to be with his heavenly Father.  “In either case, I cannot lose,” he thought, “because of what my Savior Jesus Christ has done for me.”

It was that experience that cured his childhood fear of death and opened the door to military chaplaincy.

“What I saw the next morning changed my life forever.  I would still be a sergeant Army ranger if it wasn’t for what I saw the morning after,” Struecker said, describing the many soldiers lined up to ask him about what happens in the hereafter, giving him a perfect opportunity to share Jesus Christ. “It was that moment that God started to show me he had something different for me.”

Struecker joined the Army in 1987 at age 18. After attending Airborne School, he served in the 75th Ranger Regiment for 10 years out of Fort Benning, Ga. He has combat experience in Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now a U.S. Army chaplain in the 82nd Airborne, Struecker still serves with some of the same men he fought alongside in Somalia.

In closing, he assured students, “There is only one force great enough to transform the world, and it is the Holy Spirit through the living God and his Son Jesus Christ.”

After convocation, Struecker spoke with students and signed his book, “Blaze of Glory.”