A soft voice and a simple nudge in the right direction is often all it takes to save the life of someone in great pain.
One young U.S. Army soldier, Josh, was staring death in the face. His memory loss, lack of concentration and disassociation with people was too much pain to bear.
Josh wrote a note, left it on a desk in his barracks and stepped into the rain outside for a final cigarette before he would take a knife and end what had become his nightmare of a life.
Flashbacks of the battlefield in Iraq and mortar attack that pounded him with multiple concussions turned him into a walking case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Who could understand his pain?
“I thought I was damaged goods,” he said in a film produced about him, called Mutual Rescue. “I knew that I wasn’t, and it got to the point where I was ready to end it.”
As he sat despondent on the stoop in the rain, a black-and-white kitten emerged from the bushes nearby. The little one walked right up to the soldier, let loose a soft, “meow,” and nudged up against the soldier’s feet.
Josh naturally began to pet the precious kitten.
“I thought, ‘Someone did care,’” Josh said. “Something with a warm heart and soft fur came up to lend a hand, and it really did help.
“I broke down crying, burst into tears. Maybe he knew there was something I couldn’t quite handle.”
Something snapped in Josh that dark day, and in a good way.
“I stopped thinking about all my problems and I started thinking about all his problems,” Josh said.
He began feeding the kitten a plate of tuna each day as thoughts of suicide faded. Josh would call the kitten who would come running to him.
“It was a complete 180,” Josh said. “He restored something in me that was lost.
The kitten, as with most lovable pets, saw Josh with no flaws and both felt safe with one another.
Then, as quickly as he appeared, the kitten was gone, not answering Josh’s calls.
That little kitten, in a short time, taught him he could care for others – and they could care for him – if he chose that path. It opened a new world to him.
Josh met and began dating Becky, and one day while walking the grounds of the Army post they stumbled upon an animal adopt-a-thon.
And there was that kitten, a little older and still lovable.
Josh adopted the cat and named him Scout.
The soldier had a new life and followed that success by marrying Becky, earning his master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling, and he stopped smoking.
Josh began helping other veterans facing the pain he survived. He was serving once again, helping others fight their personal battles.
Soon, Josh once again stared death in the face.
Scout fell ill, sluggish. He was diagnosed with feline leukemia.
An emergency trip to the vet ended with Scout passing away as Josh held him closely.
“It hurt so much,” recalled Josh. “Even before he was my cat, before he even knew me that well, he saved my life.
“That little kitten helped me realize that I wasn’t just a sack of damaged goods … Scout was my battle buddy. He saved me.”
A voice calling softly in the dark of night and a kind nudge for someone in pain didn’t save one soldier, it produced a new kind of soldier to help many more walk away from the darkness.
Watch more about Josh and Scout here: