Onward, Christian Soldier! - The Warrior's Journey®

Onward, Christian Soldier!

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Virginia Guard chaplain support teams support military personnel in Louisiana. Photo by Coast Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

In a world containing nearly seven billion people, we may be tempted to underestimate the influence of a single life. The following story is a vivid reminder of just how great a difference one person can make.

On Thursday, April 24, 2008, I received news that 1LT Tim Cunningham died in Iraq the day prior. He was serving with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. The death of this 26-year-old infantry officer from Texas left my family and I stunned. In the three years that we knew him at West Point, Tim had a profound impact on the McChrystal family, on the staff and faculty, and on hundreds of his fellow cadets.

Tim entered West Point in the summer of 2002, just one month after his older brother, John David, had graduated from the same institution. I met Tim during cadet basic training and quickly saw him as a most impressive and caring young man. I also noted that he signed up to teach children’s Sunday School, an activity he did all four years at West Point. During two of those years, one of his Sunday School students was our youngest son, Josh. Later Josh became a cadet at West Point and fondly remembers the genuine interest that Tim had shown in him. Tim not only taught Josh about Jesus, he also modeled the Christian life in a quiet and credible fashion. Tim truly loved Josh, and Josh knew it. Josh had e-mailed back and forth with Tim only days before Tim’s death.

It’s appropriate for people to say nice things about a person who has died, particularly a young patriot who gave his life for the defense of his country. It’s even better when the things said are true. In Tim’s case, they are. Rev. Alfred Perry of First Baptist Church in Rosharon, Texas, where Tim’s father is music minister, said this: “He was the type of young man that makes you proud to be an American.” I couldn’t agree more.

What made Tim Cunningham such an impressive and influential young man? The answer is simply that Tim stood strong for the Lord in all places at all times. His influence extended far beyond his family and fellow cadets at the United States Military Academy. His stand for the Lord profoundly touched the people of Iraq.

A few weeks after Tim’s death, his brother, John, returned to Iraq to complete his tour as an engineer company commander with the 101st Airborne Division. He ran into Tim’s brigade commander one day who passed along some amazing information about Tim concerning Golden Hills, an area just north of Baghdad.

The commander told John that he had been talking to some Iraqi tribal leaders in the Golden Hills area, Tim’s area of operations, soon after Tim’s passing. He said the Iraqis talked about “Mulazem Tim,” and the great job he was doing there — they didn’t yet know what had happened. When the commander broke the news about Tim’s death, he said that they broke down crying.

The commander shared that he frequently had talked to Iraqi families who had lost sons as the result of firefights, and their reactions often seemed indifferent and unaffected. With Tim, an American, it was different. They broke down and wept aloud.

But that wasn’t all. He asked John, “Do you know what is going down in Golden Hills now?”

John answered, “No, sir, I don’t.”

The commander reported that 200 Iraqi men there had turned themselves in for reconciliation. Formerly these guys were fighting against the United States. But because of the work Tim had done with them, they now wanted to lay down their arms and join our side.

How could a young man make such a strong stand for the Lord? The answer lies embedded in a note Tim left on his computer before he deployed to Iraq. He had erased everything else from his hard drive except for a set of instructions to be read in case he was wounded, captured or killed.

If I die in a combat zone . . .

Please follow all instructions in my green book. I am okay. I have been redeemed by the Lord of hosts, the Commander of the Lord’s Army, the one who will chain the serpent and all his servants, my Savior Jesus Christ.

Have a memorial celebration where the message of the Gospel is clear and please Read 1 Cor 15:57-58 at some point in the service.

To my platoon . . .

See for yourselves that men don’t need to be gruff, tough and brave to be considered a man. The real men are those that seek to lose their own inhibitions, failures and sin, and choose to follow a higher order. I choose to follow Christ. I will always lose myself and follow Him. If I am spent, it is because I have completed all that He wanted me to accomplish, and have been called home. You are all fine men, and I am proud to have been near you in combat, and I consider each one of you friends.

Farewells and things left unsaid . . .

I love my family more than anything on earth. To think that I will never see you again pains my heart. But I take courage in knowing that the Lord has gone before us to plan a way for us. He has crossed over from death to life to lead us to our new Home. I pray I will see all of you there.

Lieutenant Tim Cunningham stood strong for the Lord until the day he died. By placing your faith in Jesus Christ, you can demonstrate that same strength. It’s your choice!

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