The Dart: Natchez man finds faith after war, drinking

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 18, 2016

NATCHEZ — One Natchez man said he has had a difficult life, but he has turned it around in the past two decades by putting God first.

When The Dart found James Fletcher on Edgewood Road Friday, he was taking out some trash.

“I don’t have a middle name,” Fletcher said, as a way of starting off his life story. “All my life, my mother said she was in a hurry, so there was no time to do a middle name.”

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In high school, Fletcher said math had given him problems, so he simply didn’t take very many math classes. Come graduation time, when he found out he wasn’t going to graduate because of the lack of math classes, he had to make a decision.

Fletcher said he could go home and face what his mother would have done when he told her he wasn’t going to graduate, or he could volunteer for the army and fight in the Vietnam War. The sergeant who signed him up even came to the house with him to help explain it to his mother, Fletcher said.

The war had its difficulties. Fletcher said he witnessed a lot of buddies die, and by serving on the front lines, he came face to face with some things he’d have rather not seen. He did get an early exit from the war, though, when a vehicle in which he was riding was involved in an explosion.

On the other side of the war, Fletcher said he was diagnosed with what society now calls Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. His night terrors were so bad, that he began drinking heavily.

“I drank until I passed out,” Fletcher said. “It was the only way I’d sleep all night. I was afraid to go to sleep.”

But Fletcher said he was a functional drunk. He attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College and followed that up by graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in sociology.

Math still wasn’t easy, but Fletcher said he made it through by working hard to get Ds. Despite the low math grades, Fletcher said he graduated from both schools with honor because he had done well in his other classes.

Fletcher said he started out his career teaching, but quickly learned teaching was not for him. During his life, Fletcher said he’s done a little bit of everything including welding and construction.

Finally, in 1992, he was confronted about his drinking.

“One day I came to church, and a man leaned close to me and said, ‘James, you’ve got nothing but the devil in you,’” Fletcher said.

So Fletcher said he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and there, he found God could help him.

He also recently felt a calling from God. Having served jail time in the past, Fletcher said he wanted to give back to people serving time in the Miss-Lou.

“There are some good men in jail who just got on the wrong path,” Fletcher said. “When I preach a sermon to them, I feel something really powerful inside me. I want to help them get back on the right path.”