Worth Dying For?

Speaker Challenges FACS Students, Guests

by Deborah Wade

FACS Student Ambassadors conducted a special assembly to honor our military on January 23 featuring a guest speaker who challenged students, faculty, and parents to “live for something worth dying for.”

Sgt. Jeff Struecker, now retired as an active duty Army Ranger, served in combat in Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Storm, and the Battle of Mogadishu, and as a chaplain during more than a dozen tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is best known for leading convoys in and out of Mogadishu, Somalia in October of 1993 in the all-night rescue mission made famous by the book and subsequent movie, “Black Hawk Down.”

During his remarks, Sgt. Struecker, now a Baptist pastor, told of his childhood night terrors stemming from an acute fear of death, his life-altering decision to follow Christ as a teenager, his confidence as he entered Ranger training at age 18, and his first major battle in Panama in 1989.

“I wrote a letter to my father before that battle,” he said. “I talked about all the things I should have done. I decided I needed to live my life without leaving loose ends untied.”

One of those “loose ends” was a high school sweetheart Sgt. Struecker then married. By the time he entered Somalia in 1993, the first of Jeff and Dawn Struecker’s five children was on the way.

The Battle of Mogadishu ensued after several years of civil war in Somalia had destroyed that country’s agriculture. Hundreds of thousands were starving.  International efforts to provide food were thwarted by warlords who stole supplies to barter for arms; one of the fiercest among those warlords was Mohammed Farrah Aidid.

On October 3, a 30-minute U.S. raid designed to capture Aidid’s top advisors went horribly wrong when a soldier was injured and a Black Hawk sent to rescue the soldier went down. Aidid’s militiamen convinced Somali citizens they were under attack. Soon thousands of armed Somalis filled the streets and more U.S. soldiers were cut off and in harm’s way. Sgt. Struecker, then 24, repeatedly led his men into Mogadishu to retrieve trapped and wounded soldiers.

“I have never in in my life been more terrified,” Sgt. Struecker said of the fierce battle and casualties among close friends. “After making it out alive the first time, I remember cleaning the blood out of my Humvee, knowing I had to lead my men back in. I started to think about my Christian faith and what it said about me. I thought, ‘I will go home to my family in Georgia, or I will go home to my father in heaven.’ That and that alone enabled me to climb back in that Humvee.”
Sgt. Struecker made several trips in and out of Mogadishu that night, amazed and humbled to have survived.

“What I really wasn’t prepared for is what I experienced the next day. I had been trying for years to tell my friends about Jesus. The day after the firefight, these tough guys were saying, ‘You have something I don’t have. I want to know what it is,’ or, ‘My best friend died last night. I want to know where he is.’”

Those tough questions led Sgt. Struecker to complete a seminary degree and serve as a chaplain, and those same questions continue to lead him to speak to groups like the one assembled at FACS.

“What are you living for? And is it worth dying for?” he asked listeners. “Are you in this life for the money, the fame? Or are you in it for something more? Are you living for the next paycheck, clothes, a car, an athletic scholarship? Or are you living for God’s glory.”

Jesus asked the same question in the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. Struecker articulated in a single sentence what he believes the lesson to be: “If it’s not worth dying for; it’s not worth living for.”