Fernando Arroyo

A former Paratrooper in the famed 82nd Airborne Division, author of The Shadow of Death.

My Story

I was born on July 9, 1984, at the UCLA Harbor Medical Center, in the city of Torrance, California. I grew up in the city of Bell Gardens, California where I lived with both of my parents, Luis and Maria Arroyo, and my older brother, Robert. On September 11, 2001, I was a senior at Bell Gardens High School and I witnessed the terrorist attacks in New York, live on television. On September 29, 2001, I enlisted in the Army and volunteered for the Airborne Infantry, where I would serve for five years in many positions ranging from scout observer, reconnaissance team leader, line squad team leader, and squad leader. I graduated from US Army Ranger School, class 6-05, and I deployed three times to combat, serving in Fallujah, Iraq from 2003 to 2004, Zurmat, Afghanistan in 2004, and Bayji, Iraq from 2006 to 2007. 

 After my service in the army, I faced many struggles.  I’ve heard people call it, “War Residue,” or “PTSD,” but whatever you call it, I had it. I struggled with nightmares and the shame and the guilt of the harm that I inflicted on other human beings. The cost of freedom is high and my mind and my body paid a hefty toll. I reached a point in my life where living was no longer appealing. I decided that the best days of my life were behind and that I was going to take my life. One night I drank an excessive amount of alcohol and I decided that I would take my life. I placed a pistol in my mouth and asked God to save me, but there was no response. I placed the pistol in my mouth and took the safety off as I prayed in my mind that God would save me. I heard a “Bang!” that startled me, so I dropped my pistol and looked around me, but there was no blood.

The Bible I had on my desk fell to the floor and that was the bang that I heard. I got on my knees and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.  It wasn’t until I surrendered to the healing power of Jesus Christ that I found true healing and a new calling. I earned my bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine, in Criminology. Then, I attended the Talbot School of Theology, BIOLA University, and earned my Master of Divinity degree, with an emphasis on pastoral care and counseling.

While studying at BIOLA University, I helped to create the BIOLA Veterans Association and the BIOLA Veterans Center, and I served as an advocate for veterans on campus. Today, I work at the Orange County Rescue Mission as the Veteran Services Case Manager. I have the privilege of serving veterans who are struggling with different issues ranging from PTSD, drug addiction, and homelessness. My job is to provide veterans with pastoral counseling and walk alongside them as they regain sobriety and control of their mental health. 


The Shadow of Death

From My Battles in Fallujah to the Battle for My Soul



When I returned home from my latest deployment in the U.S. Army, my life began to fall apart. One night, after heavy drinking, I placed my 1911 pistol in my mouth and thought a prayer—silence. I deactivated the safety and began to slowly squeeze the trigger. BANG! I dropped the pistol and I looked around me, but there was no blood. The bang I heard was the Bible on my desk falling and hitting the floor. I fell to my knees and asked God for forgiveness. I surrendered to Jesus Christ and asked him to help me. He answered.