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Surrendering to Peace

“I remember being 21 years old when I got to Iraq and just, you know, hoping and praying every day that I'd see 22.” Army specialist Jeremy Harrell was deployed to the front lines when the Iraq War broke out in 2003. The miserable conditions and constant danger quickly took its toll. He recalls, “I had to get to a place where I had to accept death just in case it happened, so that I could quit worrying about it.” Jeremy expected the Army to be his ticket out of a childhood of poverty and abuse, but the realities of war forced that trauma back to the surface. He says, “My childhood was almost like a combat zone cause I'm feeling some of these same emotions. I often felt like a burden. There were feelings of being unloved in that as well because, you know, when you feel like you're a burden you don't feel love.”

So fresh out of high school, Jeremy escaped to the Army. In boot camp he had structure, stability, and three meals a day. He recalls, “The feelings that it brought to me was the feeling of belonging, the feeling of purpose. I felt important for the first time in my life I felt needed.” While there Jeremy also accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.  Throughout boot camp he drew closer to God. But after he deployed to Iraq, he became overwhelmed by the brutality and ugliness of war. He says, “I had a moment out in the middle of the desert that I'm not very proud of, but I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, really cursing God and saying, you know, ‘If you're so powerful, if you really are sovereign over everything, then why this?’”

Doubts continued to plague him over his 15-month tour. When he finally returned home, Jeremy didn’t recognize himself. He remembers, “I just noticed I was different. I noticed I'd become more of a person who'd like to isolate I come home with residual anger and I just – I really struggled to adapt back to life. I wasn't as compassionate as I used to be. I wasn't as caring, nurturing. I had this numbness about me where I didn’t care.”

Three short-lived marriages didn’t help and when he was discharged from the Army in 2008, Jeremy felt completely worthless. He recalls, “I felt like I lost my identity. I truly couldn't stand who I was at that point in my life. I was still in survival mode. I was still just trying to make it to the next hour, not even considering the future, not even considering my kids or my family but just ‘What can I do to get through this next hour so that I don't do something to myself that is harmful.’" Jeremy was diagnosed with dual trauma PTSD stemming from his childhood and the Iraq War. He says, “I do remember leaving the hospital and feeling very like a broken person, I wasn't able to do simple things like there's days I didn't want to get out of bed.” He tried medication and therapy but nothing helped him overcome his depression and suicidal thoughts. He remembers, “I felt honestly like I was a casualty at war even though I didn't die. But then I started to, again, get back into that victim mentality and that anger of, ‘God, why? Like why do I have to have this now? Like didn't I suffer enough? Like didn't I suffer enough as a child? Like didn't I suffer enough in combat? Why now do I have to continue to suffer?’"

In 2017 Jeremy attended an equine therapy camp for PTSD in upstate New York. On site he found a chapel, and after a few days, felt compelled to go inside. He remembers, “I went in and started to pray in my same, what I consider a generic prayer but then it changed. Something changed in my heart. I just remember the prayer going to, ‘I submit to you. God, I submit to you. I deny myself. I want you to use me in your kingdom. Like I'm ready, I need this, I want this. I love you. I want you to intervene. I want you fill me from head to toe with your Spirit.’ After that prayer, I felt the incredible sense of peace and love of God. And I felt like I was just given the answer to all of life's problems right then and there.” Jeremy also says he no longer felt the effects of his PTSD. “He's freed me from that pain. He's freed me from that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. And so, the PTSD is there, things still happen. I don't foresee that ever going away, He's allowed me to manage that in a way that I couldn't on my own.”

A couple years later Jeremy opened his own equine therapy facility to share the love of Jesus with fellow soldiers. He says, “And I believe 100% it was that prayer that I prayed in New York when I intentionally and truly meant what I said when I said, ‘Jesus, use me.’” Today Jeremy is happily married and loves to share the joy and peace that comes from fully surrendering to God. He shares about Jesus, “He loves you. He wants to be in your life. He wants total control because He wants you to get the most out of your life. Nothing will compare to the joy that God puts in our bodies and in our hearts when we want to live the way that He intends us – for us to live.”

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