KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – United States Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz chaplain, Chaplain (Lt. Col) Craig Johnson, will speak virtually to one of the most esteemed theological organizations in the world.The first military chaplain to address The Academy of Homiletics will be presenting his paper, “Preaching Suicide Prevention,” a topic not often heard from the pulpit, but of emphasis for the Army during Suicide Prevention Month in September.“I’ve been long thinking about how we as preachers can address the issue of suicide prevention from the pulpit and do it with integrity,” Johnson said. “Everyone knows suicide exists, so it’s not like you’re giving somebody an idea for the first time. In fact, when you bring it up, you are opening the door to allow people to talk about this issue.”In an earlier assignment in his Army career, Johnson was the instructor of Homiletics at the Army’s chaplain school, where it was his job to “inspire their preaching and make them better preachers.” A homily may also be known as a sermon.It was at the chaplain’s school he had the first spark that led to the paper he will present to the academy in December.“One of the assignments I gave them was to preach a memorial service for a suicide,” Johnson remembered. “There were many students who didn’t mention suicide at all in their service. They talked about how great the deceased person was but left suicide on the table. I thought that was a bad idea. If somebody has made that tragic decision, we should address it to help anyone else in the congregation who may have similar thoughts.”The Academy of Homiletics is made up of more than 200 members from around the world. Membership is open to teachers and doctoral graduate students of homiletics. Some of who, Johnson concedes, may not be very open to his way of thinking.“The ideas I present will be controversial with some people. I know there will be some professors, even some chaplains, who won’t like the idea,” Johnson said. “To many, the religious idea about suicide is it’s a sin and if you kill yourself you’ve lost your chance at redemption. I want to challenge some of those ideas by making them look at it from the point of view that it’s really a reflection of mental health.”Johnson said a person under stress makes poor choices and they’re compounded by their mental condition. Johnson thinks if chaplains and preachers talk to a congregation about suicide, they can challenge those ideas parishioners are having.“The issue of suicide is critical to the Army, of course, but it’s likewise critical to every single major faith tradition in America,” said Chaplain (Col.) Timothy Mallard, U.S. Army Europe Chief Chaplain. “Suicide awareness is a particular focus this month for our Chief of Chaplains and Chaplain Johnson’s paper highlights our professional effort to support this in the Army.”To that end, Chaplain Mallard is excited Johnson’s paper will be presented to the Academy."The Academy of Homiletics is one our nation's premier professional theological societies to cultivate excellence in preaching and worship leadership. Army Chaplains rarely find themselves able to meaningfully contribute to such associations,” Mallard said. “With this paper, he uniquely enriches not only our ranks on the issue of suicide, but also to represent the Army on this concern to our profession's most respected scholars and leaders. This is a significant achievement for the Army."Johnson said what he hears from those who have considered suicide is, “nobody cares, there’s nobody I can turn to, I don’t have any other choices,” and Johnson said that’s almost never the case.“It’s certainly never the case in the military. We’re set up to care for people, we do everything in teams and with battle buddies,” he said. “I think we in the military need to pull out every stop, we need to push every button, we need to do everything we can to address this problem.”If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain or call the Military Crisis Line at 00800-1273-8255 or DSN 118.