Scott McChrystal
Retired Col. Scott McChrystal speaks Thursday at the Cadet Command-sponsored Spiritual Fitness Breakfast at Fort Knox, Ky. He encouraged those in attendance to ask God for help whenever they might need it. Photo by Steve Arel/U.S. Army Cadet Command

An ROTC grad who made his mark mostly by helping Soldiers remain spiritually fit spoke Thursday about the mark God made on his life.

And the mark He can make on other people's lives, too.

Retired Col. Scott McChrystal, who spent 31 years in uniform and faced countless perils in combat and in life, still devotes himself regularly to reading Scripture and prayer.

Though many people know of God's unparalleled power -- people like those Soldiers and civilians in his Spiritual Fitness Breakfast audience -- they often hesitate to ask for help from above, he said. Reluctance stems from a variety of sources: arrogance, confidence, ego.

"He's helped me in so many ways," said McChrystal, who commissioned from Washington & Lee University in Virginia and who later was an assistant professor of military science at The Citadel. "He's there, but you've got to ask Him. … Whatever life dishes out, we can take it because we have a God who can help."

About 100 people attended the annual Cadet Command-hosted breakfast at Fort Knox's Saber & Quill club, a little more than the number who took part last year.

The turnout illustrated a sense of community among people working at Fort Knox, regardless of their faith, said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Greg Thogmartin, Cadet Command's chief chaplain and one of the event organizers.

"It's not just you in your cubicle," he said. "We're all in this together."

McChrystal became a Christian at age 25, reads the Bible daily and prays routinely, even if just for a moment.

As an assistant professor in 1982 heading up the patrolling committee at ROTC summer training at Fort Bragg, N.C., his NCOIC, who saw him spend part of the morning reading his Bible and praying, asked why he did so. McChrystal said it was to ask God for strength and wisdom to handle whatever might come his way.

The confident master sergeant responded, saying he himself had the ability to handle what might come his way.

"That's an attitude a lot of people in and out of the military have today," he said.

In these challenging times, McChrystal said he believes life presents too many obstacles to handle on his own.

"He cares about every facet of your life," said the former chaplain for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "We don't always get our prayers answered how we want … If it's a miracle you need, He can do it."

Of all the difficulties and trying times McChrystal has encountered over the years, none was more difficult, he said, than the day in 1986 his son, Rob, asked him to jump with him off a high-dive at the Fort Bragg officers club pool. McChrystal remembers encouraging his son, then 6, to go first.

As the boy scaled the ladder, McChrystal looked out over the water to the spot where his son would land. Just moments later, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a dark figure fall horizontally to the ground. His son had slipped from the board, landing on his back and smacking his head against the concrete.

McChrystal's initial thought was that he had lost his son. The boy was turning blue, his eyes had rolled back and his fingernails began to take on a purple hue.

Amid the chaos of people screaming and others trying to tend to the child, McChrystal called the hospital for help. After waiting with his family outside the emergency room for three hours, much of it spent in prayer, the doctor wheeled out McChrystal's son, still strapped to a gurney.

The physician declared that something amazing had happened. He unstrapped Rob, who rose from the gurney and walked away virtually unscathed -- the only evidence of the event to this day being a scar on his back.

"God sent an angel to watch that day," Scott McChrystal said. "My heavenly father took care of my son."

McChrystal asked those in attendance Thursday to consider their own lives and urged them to not shy away when situations might seem impossible or dreams might seem out of reach. He encouraged them to give their full effort, knowing help is there if they need it.

"When we connect with Him and put faith in Him, he's not going to say, 'I can't get there. I can't help,' " McChrystal said. "He's going to say, 'I can take care of any need you have. Just ask me.' "

Page last updated Thu August 30th, 2012 at 00:00