By Lee Davis
Jeff Streucker didn’t invent the phrase “God in the foxhole,” but it certainly applies to him.
The retired U.S. Army major is a veteran of military operations in Panama, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan and has earned a chest full of medals for distinguished service. His heroism was depicted in the popular war movie “Black Hawk Down.”
But Streucker is more focused on a heavenly reward. As the lead pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, and a highly sought-after speaker, he is just as interested in winning souls for Jesus Christ as he is protecting his country from its enemies.
Streucker will tell his story of faith and freedom at the sixth annual Support Our Soldiers Alabama Memorial Day dinner, to be held May 25 at 6 p.m. at Briarwood Christian Church.
Support Our Soldiers was founded by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Rivers in 2010 after their son, Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas Rivers Jr., was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 28, 2010. The non-profit organization sends care packages to U.S. military personnel around the world.
“One of the privileges of speaking at this event is that it’s not only a fundraiser, but a way to honor a Marine who gave his life for our freedoms,” Streucker said. “It’s important that Americans not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Streucker, who enlisted in the Army immediately after high school and is the author of five books, said much of his faith was molded in the battle of Mogadishu, in Somalia, in the early 1990s. As a 24-year-old sergeant and squad leader assigned to Task Force Ranger in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he led a three-vehicle convoy through intense enemy fire to return a wounded soldier to base.
“I had been a Christian since I was 13 and was strong in the faith. Throughout my military career, I’d never been in a desperate situation where I thought I might lose my life until Somalia,” he said. “There were roughly 200 of us and perhaps as many as 20,000 Somalians around us. We were in a firefight and I thought I was going to die. But I was OK with it, because I was prepared to meet Jesus.”
Streucker survived the battle and found a calling.
“During the battle, I knew I was prepared to die,” Streucker said. “But I could hear many of my fellow soldiers over the convoy radio and could tell that they weren’t ready because they didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. The day after the battle, I felt God’s presence as He told me that my life would be spent spreading the word of the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it or don’t believe.”
Streucker takes his message across the country, sharing his theme of God and country. How the message is received can differ depending on where he is speaking.
“Ninety percent of those serving in the military come from a military background,” he explained. “So when I speak in areas that have a strong military presence, they understand and appreciate the sacrifices that have been made. When I go to places that don’t have such a military presence, the people are patriotic but don’t quite understand the significance of the sacrifices. That’s a direction that is dangerous to our country. There’s a disconnect because they don’t have loved ones who are directly affected.”
Streucker sees Memorial Day as a time not only to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America – but also as a time to express Christian faith.
“Just as I have a responsibility to remember the fallen warriors on Memorial Day weekend, I also have a responsibility to remember what Jesus did on the cross,” he explained. “We should never forget the price paid for our freedom and we shouldn’t forget what Jesus did to buy us back from the bondage of sin.”
After serving more than a dozen tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Streucker has strong opinions about people who say they support the troops but oppose the political mission.
“There is something that turns in my stomach every time I hear someone say ‘I support our troops but I don’t support the war in Afghanistan,’ or ‘I’m really proud of our troops but I don’t want my son or daughter to go fight that war,’” he said. “Those statements define someone who is not willing to sacrifice for our freedom. They describe someone who expects others to sacrifice for them.”
Streuker believes there is an interconnection between military service and the saving of souls.
“At the end of the day, there are two classifications of people who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Jesus Christ gave his life so we would have eternal life and our warriors sacrifice their lives so we can have a life of freedom in this nation.”