Faithful to the End - The Warrior's Journey®

Faithful to the End

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

For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:19–21)

On a muggy summer morning at West Point, New York, the starting gun sounded for a 10K race. The course stretched over some hilly terrain. Even the best conditioned athletes would be tested to their limits.

Slightly over 30 minutes later, the first runners appeared and soon crossed the finish line. None of the competitors looked exuberant. The combination of heat and humidity was taking its toll. Numerous runners had to drop out. Others straggled across the finish line. The medical aid tent rapidly filled up with participants who had overdone it. Many were dehydrated and were given IVs.

As more and more runners came to the medical tent, I dropped the idea of watching the remainder of the race. As the Academy chaplain, I knew these exhausted runners needed my full attention.

As I continued to visit and pray with people, I came across a young Army major by the name of John Roseborough. Admittedly, I was very surprised to see him needing medical attention because he was so superbly fit. As they tended to John, somehow the IV fluid didn’t seem to make much difference. The attending doctor sent John by ambulance to the Keller Army Hospital ER. They wound up keeping him for four days in an effort to determine the reason John was experiencing excruciating pain in his abdomen. They performed a colonoscopy and found a large mass in his colon. It was cancer of the most aggressive kind.

The day of the race was August 28, 1999. Over the coming months, I had the privilege of being pastor to John, his wife, Sontil, and their little son, Brandon. John bravely underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and for a while, it seemed as though the cancer was diminishing. During these months John continued to work most of the time and even did physical training.

After almost 18 months, the cancer returned with a vengeance. It was evident that only a miracle would save John’s life. But throughout his ordeal, I never heard John utter one complaint. I never heard him say anything but how much he loved God and was trusting Him for his healing. Defeat was not in John’s vocabulary.

By March 2001, the end was near. The cancer had spread throughout John’s body, causing enormous pain. John was sent home to die in his apartment on the grounds of West Point. To make it through the incessant pain, the doctors had him medicated with high dosages of morphine. Much of the time, John just slept. When awake, he lapsed in and out of consciousness.

On Thursday, March 8, I informed Lieutenant General Dan Christman, Superintendent of the Military Academy, about John’s condition and advised him that if he wanted to see John alive, it needed to be soon. We made an appointment for later that same day.

As we walked across the street and headed up the stairs to John’s apartment, I warned General Christman that I did not know what to expect. There was a chance John would not be conscious. And even if he was, that he might not be able to speak. General Christman and I were both in for a surprise.

We knocked on the door, expecting Sontil to answer. Instead, it was Major John Roseborough standing at the position of attention. He greeted us warmly and rendered a crisp salute to the superintendent. We had a great visit, amazed by the strength, courage and faith of the young major.

Two days later, I went to visit John. Sontil told me he was lying in his bed. I could see tears forming in her eyes, so I knew things were not looking good. As she led me into his bedroom, I was surprised at how bad John looked. Cancer is a cruel disease. I had spent time with dying cancer patients previously, and John’s appearance matched my previous experiences. Death was clearly knocking at his door.

The only other person in the room was John’s brother who had only traveled to West Point in the last few hours and had just arrived to their apartment a few minutes before I got there. Apparently, the brothers hadn’t seen much of each other over the past several years, and it was not looking hopeful that they would be able to have any meaningful communication before John passed.

John’s brother was not a person of faith and needed some assurance about what was happening to his own flesh and blood. I desperately wanted to provide John’s brother with encouragement, but couldn’t find the words. I simply prayed.

Finally, as I began to speak to his brother, John suddenly sat up in his bed. He looked his brother in the eye and gave a thumbs up. Without words, he was telling his brother that everything was OK. God would take good care of him. A huge sigh of relief came over the face of John’s brother. God’s presence at that moment was undeniable. I will never forget that moment.

After a few more minutes, I knew it was time for me to leave so that John’s brother, Sontil, and their son could be there alone with John. I planned to return a few hours later. Less than two hours after I left, John went to be with the Lord.

Setting the example is important. Major John Roseborough set the example in how he lived for Christ. He also set the example in his death. He showed his faith until the end. I am looking forward to seeing John in heaven.

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