Speaker inspires strength, resilience at National Day of Prayer

By Rick Emert, Fort Carson Public Affairs OfficeMay 7, 2024

Speaker inspires strength, resilience at National Day of Prayer
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FORT CARSON, Colo. — Guest speaker retired Capt. John M. Arroyo speaks about resilience and affirmation during the Fort Carson National Day of Prayer, May 2, 2024, at the Elkhorn Conference Center. (Photo Credit: Rick Emert) VIEW ORIGINAL
Speaker inspires strength, resilience at National Day of Prayer
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FORT CARSON, Colo. — Maj. Gen. David Doyle, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, greets attendees at the National Day of Prayer May 2, 2024, at Elkhorn Conference Center. (Photo Credit: Rick Emert) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. — A packed house listened in utter silence as retired Green Beret Capt. John M. Arroyo shared his road to resilience and his miraculous survival of life-threatening trauma during the National Day of Prayer luncheon May 2, 2024, at the Elkhorn Conference Center.

The National Day of Prayer was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman April 17, 1952, and later amended by President Ronald Reagan May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of each May as the annual day for a broad representation from all religions to unite with a clear focus on praying for the nation. Attendees at the Fort Carson event were led in five prayers: for Soldiers and Families, the Fort Carson community, leaders, the nation and the world.

“It’s wonderful to see leaders across our installation take time to recognize the importance of this day,” said Maj. Gen. David Doyle, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson. “A lot of times leaders assume that they are the sole individuals who can get things done. They find it’s easier to compartmentalize the problem of the day and move on to the next thing and never take time to reflect on how they rely on some kind of source of strength. For some people that’s their Families. Others rely on certain ideals. What I think many recognize is that the spiritual component is real. It’s part of who we are as people.”

Arroyo broke the ice with humorous stories of his pre-Army years in Los Angeles and being a class clown who tried to get other students’ and his friends’ acceptance.

He quickly shifted gears to talk about his upbringing, and the death of his father when he was only 5 years old.

“Trauma first entered my life then; I never got affirmation from my dad,” he said.

He would spend most of his life trying to earn that affirmation.

“In high school, I was doing (drugs) and drinking alcohol and trying to make my friends and classmates laugh,” he said. “Then my sister took me to a recruiter and told the recruiter, ‘Fix him.’”

After finishing basic training, Arroyo found himself at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he saw that everyone was impressed with the Green Berets stationed there.

“I said I’m going to be a Green Beret, even though I didn’t know what they do,” he said.

After preparing to follow through with the statement, Arroyo went to a selection board for new Special Forces Soldiers Sept. 10, 2001. He wasn’t selected on the first try, but he was selected after trying a second time. Despite his achievement, he said he was still participating in risky behavior.

He also was thinking of his family, and how being in Special Forces was affecting them.

“Who was raising my kids?” he asked. “I was always deployed somewhere. The world was raising my kids.”

To be home with his family more, he decided to apply for the Green to Gold program, which helps enlisted Soldiers become commissioned officers. He was selected.

“I went to Fort Hood (Texas) and was there about five months when I heard shots fired on post,” Arroyo said. “I know what shots fired sounds like.”

He turned to look at his wife and daughter who were waiting in the car, and then he turned back toward the shooter’s location.

“The next shot ripped through my throat. I walked toward my car, stumbled and fell flat on my face,” he said. “How long do you think I should have lived after taking a bullet that severed my jugular? Seconds?

“My life was pouring out on the ground, and all I could hear was, ‘John, get up or your wife will die.’ I heard it again, ‘John get up or your wife will die.’”

Shortly before his family moved to Fort Hood, his wife lost both of her parents a short time apart. Only months before that, she lost her brother in a hunting accident.

“I had a .45-caliber round in my throat, and I was forced to make a decision — what was going to be my source of resilience. So, I got up off the ground, and there was a Soldier walking toward me. He looked frantic and looked all around then killed himself. It was the Soldier who shot me. Finally, others came out and helped me. It would have been easier to lay on the ground, but what would my legacy have been?”

He said his family instantly became the source of his resilience.

“I thought of my kids saying now dad’s gone from an active shooter and mom took her own life.”

Arroyo looked out to the audience and asked, “What will be your legacy if you decide to just lay down and not get up?”

He said the last thing he did before he removed the alcohol and risky behavior from his life was to forgive the man who had shot him. The shooter was Ivan Lopez who killed four people and wounded 16 on April 2, 2014.

He ended his speech with words to the audience that he repeated several times as he turned to look at them.

“I want you to hear this from a father,” Arroyo said. “I love you, and I’m proud of you.”