With record-high suicide rates among U.S. soldiers, the Army's Chief of Chaplains has declared Wednesday, April 8, a day of prayer and fasting for the military.
Chaplain (Major General) Douglas L. Carver is calling on all Army chaplains, as well as concerned Christians, to pray for the safety and peace of mind for soldiers and their families, according to Military Ministry.
The day of prayer and fasting focuses on suicide-prevention awareness and coincides with the Army's 120-day "stand down" and unit training, which began Feb. 15.
"This has been a long war we've been in – for eight years since 9/11," Carver, who is a Southern Baptist, said in an interview with Baptist Press.
"The war has been on an up tempo and at an almost unsustainable rate, with fighting on two fronts," he said in reference to Iraq and Afghanistan. "Suicide is something we're now seeing as one of the residuals of this long war."
In 2008, there were 140 suicides in the Army – the highest recorded number since the early 1980s, Carver said.
The economic crisis and strained soldiers who are on their second, third, or fourth deployment also add pressure to the soldiers.
Some chaplains, who are themselves under great stress, have also committed suicide, the chief of chaplains said.
Carver urges Christians to pray for all U.S. military servicemen and women.
"May God be glorified in the lives of our Army's Soldiers and Families, and may God bless the United States," wrote Carver in the Proclamation of Prayer and Fasting letter.
Carver has faced some criticism for issuing the fasting day on the first night of Passover, one of the holiest days in the Jewish Calendar that is marked by a ritual feast.
However, he has indicated that he did not realize the date coincided with the Jewish holiday and told Baptist Press that he chose Wednesday because that is when Southern Baptists usually hold prayer meetings.