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September 2021

Living Lessons


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Soldier for Life

By John Carey


“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The place is Murray-Calloway County Hospital (MCCH), in Murray, Kentucky. I am sitting in a hospital room this midweek morning visiting with a patient. I have the privilege of visiting 90-120 hospital patients from the community of Murray every week. I am honored to represent the Lord Jesus Christ to all patients and visiting families, many who allow me to stay beyond an introduction and business card. Around 80-90% will allow a visit, share their hearts and concerns, and most are open to a word of prayer upon departure.

This late winter morning, I am not visiting just another patient. This patient is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. By the way, marines no longer serving on active duty still consider themselves marines. In fact, I must confess I’ve rarely met a veteran unwilling to serve this nation again, if called upon, regardless of physical condition. Thus, I might be a retired U.S. Army Chaplain (Major), but I also have various lapel pins and shirts that identify me as a soldier for life. I couldn’t agree more. “I used to be a soldier” is NOT a part of my vocabulary.

This soldier has now served more than two years in hospital ministry as a chaplain on the pastoral care team at MCCH. I thank the Lord I received the required training in hospital chaplaincy through my clinical pastoral education course (CPE) at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., during 2010-11.

For those unfamiliar with hospital ministry, it is not for the faint of heart. I have served, prayed with, and become friends with thousands of patients, many whose funerals I later attended or helped officiate. I often become too attached to patients who regularly invite me back to their hospital room for visits and prayer, especially as their lives on this Earth begin to wind down.

Losing patients who become friends here at MCCH is hard, but I am thankful for the opportunity to share Jesus with many, and even more thankful to see some accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Additionally, I have seen many other patients draw closer to the Lord as their time of death draws near.

Can this soldier for life make a quick suggestion? Please take time to support the veterans and chaplains in your church through prayers and your gratitude, checking often to make sure they are okay. A simple thank you or a cup of coffee can work wonders. The same is true for retired missionaries and pastors as well. Their service may have diminished somewhat with time and age, but their desire to serve never ends until God calls them home. They are soldiers for life in God’s army.

May God bless you! It has always been my honor to represent and support my Free Will Baptist denomination, my soldiers, and now, my hospital patients, staff, and fellow veterans.

About the Writer: Former military chaplain John C. Carey serves as staff chaplain at the Murray-Calloway County Hospital. Learn more about Free Will Baptist chaplain ministry:


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists