Pastor and his wife sell everything to educate people about PTSD and suicide prevention

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Rev. Jeff Hastings stands next to his RV home, in the parking lot of the Walnut Memorial Church, that is used across the nation to help veterans who suffer from PTSD and to help prevent suicide as part of the Warrior 180 Foundation.

In May 2015, the Rev. Jeff Hastings and his wife, Criss, sold their three-bedroom, two-bath home in Owensboro.

They gathered all the personal possessions they wanted to keep in one room and sold everything else at a giant yard sale.

For the year that followed, they stayed in friends' homes and at churches. Then, the couple bought a 36-foot motorhome for their new ministry -- the Warrior 180 Foundation.

Today, they travel the nation, teaching the public about post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention. Warrior 180 is a faith-based ministry that reaches out primarily to current soldiers, veterans, first responders and their families.

"If (national) statistics are correct, every day 22 veterans take their lives," Hastings said. "I think that is statistically low. We have to stop this."

Before founding Warrior 180, he served as a Baptist pastor in churches across the Great Plains and New Hampshire for 23 years.

Later, Hastings went to Cleveland, Ohio, where he enrolled in a year-long program to become a hospital chaplain. That's what brought him to Owensboro Health, where he worked as a chaplain from 2007 to 2015.

During that time, Hastings became an Army chaplain and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq for a year.

"When I came home, I started to see the needs of folks in the military and veterans," he said.

The idea for Warrior 180 came from a recurring dream. For a month, Hastings dreamed he and his wife founded a ministry.

"We would go from community to community and bring the help and resources right to communities," Hastings said.

In 2018, their ministry made nearly 12,200 face-to-face contacts. Jeff Hastings figures he works 100 hours a week or more.

While his own tour of duty with the Army helped him see the need that exists, his son, Logan Hastings, who earned a Purple Heart and was medically discharged from the Army in 2010, lost 12 combat buddies to suicide in just eight years.

"It's the same story over and over and over again," Jeff Hastings said. "We have to do something, but it seems so many people don't want to do anything about this."

Jeff and Logan Hastings kayaked the Mississippi River in 2017 to bring awareness and "to wake up the nation."

Both father and son suffer from PTSD.

"People don't want to talk about this," Jeff Hastings said. "It's easier to ignore it and sweep it under the table, but we can't do that."

Families that deal with suicide have a greater risk of suicide in the future, he said.

Jeff Hastings speaks to large and small groups. He travels the country sharing his message of suicide prevention with churches, veterans' organizations and schools. In Ohio, he spoke to more than 5,000 high school students in a three-day period.

Some people argue that talking about suicide to teens gives them ideas.

In the last decade, he said, the suicide rate for people 10 years of age to 24 tripled across the nation.

"(Kids are) already talking about it," Jeff Hastings said. "Their friends need to be trained and equipped to save their lives."

For more information about Warrior 180 or suicide prevention, contact Jeff Hastings at jeff@warrior180.org or go to the foundation's website at warrior180.org.

"We can do so much more together than we can do alone," he said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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