Veteran Joins “Special Operations Forces” at Southwestern Seminary
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Jared Vineyard cannot remember a time when he did not have a sincere interest in the military. While he accepted Christ at a young age during Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Church of Mount Zion, Illinois, the thought of being an officer in the “Lord’s Army,” which he sang about in those days, rather than the United States Army was far from his mind.
He worked hard academically and graduated from West Point in 2002. He took a new job as an officer in the field artillery, married his wife, Amanda, and moved to his first station of duty in Germany by January of 2003. After four months, Vineyard was deployed to Iraq.
With “the frills of western civilization” gone, such as television, Vineyard’s time in Iraq was one his greatest times of spiritual growth. His first assignment in Iraq was more of a support role, so he began to dive deeper into Scripture. He began sensing his life needed to change vocationally, but he was not sure how that was possible. He had a five-year commitment to the army.
A week before he was scheduled to go home, Vineyard’s unit received news that their contracts were extended indefinitely. His platoon moved to Fallujah where his role changed from a support role to a combat role. On April 29, 2004, Vineyard and his men went out on patrol as part of a routine operation, making safety checks on vehicles in areas where engineers were rebuilding.
About 10 a.m., they were working so far ahead of the engineers that Vineyard told his group to halt. He split the platoon in half, sending half of the men to a wheat field, and the other half went with him to a country road. They discovered a ditch, where they lined up, waiting for the engineers to catch up. It wasn’t long before he heard a car coming. As the vehicle turned towards them, Vineyard had an unsettled feeling, especially when he noticed the car had stolen tags. He and his men began to get up.
The next thing he knew, Vineyard was “in the middle of a fireball.” The blast picked him off the ground, and he felt like he was hit with a baseball bat. After landing on his hands and knees, he felt something dripping on his face and realized he was bleeding. The next few moments of his life were nothing short of a nightmare. As the smoke began to lift, he could see that most of the men he had just been with were gone.
He began looking for his medic, but all he found was the medic’s bag, still on fire from the blast. The radio was destroyed, so he shot a flare to get help. Eight of his men were killed, and the other four were injured. As help arrived and the details began to unravel, Vineyard learned that the car he saw briefly was carrying 500 pounds of artillery shells, TNT, and dynamite.
The “baseball bat” he felt was actually a piece of metal, but his helmet took the worst of the blow. With a gash on his head and a busted eardrum, Vineyard knew it was a miracle that God had spared his life. When the explosion occurred, Vineyard was only about 15 feet away from the car, inside the area known as the “kill radius.”
While waiting to go home to have surgery on his right ear, Vineyard began having horrible flashbacks and nightmares. He got down on the floor of the hospital and prayed, “My prayer is that you would take what was bad and that you would turn it for good. I pray that I wouldn’t experience this, and that I can use it for your glory.” He has not had a flashback since. Also, when he returned to Germany, the doctors performed a preliminary examination before surgery. They discovered he no longer needed the procedure, and Vineyard went home with his wife, praising God for healing his mind and his body.
During the next year, Vineyard pondered how he would remember each year the tragic events of April 29. He was certain it would be a solemn day to honor the men with whom he served. God had other plans. On April 29, 2005, his wife went in for a routine check-up with her doctor. She was pregnant, but not due for several weeks. Vineyard was on his way to a day of training with his unit when he received a phone call that his wife was in labor. His son, Jacob, was born a few hours later.
On a day he thought he would mourn, Vineyard says, “God said, ‘You’re not to be sad on this day. This day is to be a day of happiness for you.” God took his pain away, making this tragic day about the miracle of his son’s life instead.
In a final stream of miracles, Vineyard began applying to the army’s chaplaincy program. This would allow him to end his contract with the army three years early and begin answering God’s call on his life to ministry by attending seminary. What should have been a long shot was approved in three months.
Vineyard did not know much about seminaries, but he knew he was Southern Baptist. Paige Patterson, seminary president, has set Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary apart as taking the task of training “Special Operations Forces.” Seeming to be a natural fit, Vineyard enrolled at Southwestern. He graduated with a Masters of Divinity in December 2008.
Through this whole experience, the lesson Vineyard clings to is from Matthew 6:33. He says, “God is everything. He is before all, and He is all. If you keep that perspective…if you put Him first, He is going to take care of the rest.”
To view a video interview with Jared Vineyard, please visit http://www.swbts.edu/jaredvineyard.