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A Soldier’s Never-ending Inner Turmoil

January 12, 2013

While growing up, I would often note the stoic silence of my grandfather.  He served as a “Medical Technician with the 801st Medical Air Evacuation Squadron with the 5th Army Air Corps during World War II from 1941 to 1946 stationed on Leyte Island in the Philippines, as well as serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean Conflict from 1950 to 1951.” (quoted facts taken from his obituary written by my uncle).  My father said that Papaw had seen too much and that he never talked about the war and became quite uncomfortable when asked questions concerning his experience.  As much as my curiosities longed for more information, I figured it was better off not knowing much than to bring such horrific memories back to the surface of his mind.  However, if you looked into his sweet pale blue eyes, you could detect the pain and struggle of living through such horrors.

General Douglas MacArthur lands Leyte

I have lived in a military community now for 9 years.  I don’t know how I remained ignorant to the inner struggles of our soldiers until now, but perhaps it was because I tended to be drawn to other civilians like myself.  But in the past month, I have experienced two mind-numbing conversations that have not only rendered me unable to find proper words, but have also constricted my heart.  I also recently came across a news story that further spurned my desire to bring this blog to you today.

Here is the link to the news article:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/03/16309351-the-enemy-within-soldier-suicides-outpaced-combat-deaths-in-2012?lite

Just in reading the title, you can see something is severely wrong in the military arena.  Our guys and gals who serve and protect us are not being properly taken care of.  Or maybe it’s the horrors of the wars in the middle east that are getting to them…or possibly the multiple deployments, or family strains, or all of the above.  Whatever the cause, the effect is horrific!  This news article left me both dumbfounded as well as heartbroken, just as the two conversations briefly mentioned above did.  We need to be in constant prayers for our servicemen and women, as they are under severe stress to perform and have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

I’m not really well versed in military ranks and lingo, so please forgive my ignorance in terminology as I continue.

Both men I spoke with were in charge of their troops.  I immediately noted the weight of their responsibilities to the men in their charge, as they described their commitment and love towards their men, albeit not using the word love, as well as their burdensome task of keeping their men safe.  And when, in both cases, they were unable to predict the incoming IEDs, and lost men both in front of them and behind them, while somehow managing to survive, well…their burdens became almost too much to bare.

I spoke with both of these men about God, as I often do in conversations with people I first meet.  Both men had very similar, disheartening responses to such a mention.  One said things I cannot even bear to repeat, but basically it boiled down to this, “Me and God have an agreement.  He stays out of my way and I stay out of His.”  (As if that is possible!)  The other shared a very similar sentiment, but I could tell that even through the horrors he had endured, his heart was not as hardened, so far.

Both men also are recently divorced.  This is another direct effect of this seemingly never-ending war.  The first man I spoke with lost his first wife to a car accident while he was serving in Afghanistan.  He did not go home for her funeral, as he felt obligated to stay behind to continue to lead and protect his assigned troops.  He felt like there was nothing he could do back here in the states, and didn’t want to face life without her, among other reasons that surrounded his deep love and pain concerning this dreadful loss.  In the months that followed, he lost several of his men to IEDs, which left him to question God on many fronts.

He eventually remarried and had a child with his second wife who decided he was worth more to her dead, than alive.  She attempted to poison him and he did fall severely ill, but thankfully, he survived her evil attempts to bank on his life insurance policy.

Yes, life goes on for these men and women, even while they are thousands of miles away from home, oftentimes facing extreme danger, as well as suffering ailments and the elements.  To juggle the war mentality required to fulfill the harrowing tasks required of them as well as keep tabs on their home life is daunting, all by itself.  After talking with the fifth soldier I’ve gotten to open up, it dawned on me that I was in a town surrounded by killers.  They openly admit that they’ve killed more people than they could even count!  And they have to live with that for the rest of their lives.  And oddly enough, I’d never felt as safe as I did in their company!

To balance such acts with things like attending church and singing songs of praise, is far too much for some to handle.   They look on the lives of us civilians, and admire such ignorant bliss, all the while realizing that they may never attain such a state of bliss again, due to following through with the orders given to them by their superior officers.

There was an underlying note of anger towards God in their tones, in their eyes, and in their wording.  They question why their comrades were taken and they were left to live life with such losses as their new realities.  In writing this, I remember a third soldier.  He was actually the first I encountered and somehow managed to get to talking about his own struggles with God.  He could not understand why God allowed his friend, a father of four to die, instead of him, a man with no children, also going through the finalization of divorce.

As you see, there is a pattern here.  And I haven’t even brought up the ongoing battery of shots and immunizations, psychotropic prescriptions and other questionable methods the military is presently employing on our service members.  Nor have I mentioned the new restraints and conditions under which military chaplains are now challenged to prescribe to.  I am not going to go into all of that, either.  For the information I have shared, the personal stories I’ve heard, are hopefully enough to remind you all to be in constant prayer for these young men and women.

The baggage they carry would be overwhelming to your average Joe or June.  I know I could hardly imagine the strain on their hearts, as they opened up to me.  I am usually a woman of many words, as you know, if you’ve read my previous blogs.  But I found it hard to talk, hard to meet them eye to eye, and at times, even hard to breathe; and I was not the one who lived through these extremely difficult situations.  I know I was there to listen and to learn, but I tell you the truth, I could not think of one single thing to say to these men that would renew their hope in Christ and I feel like a failure for that.
Hopefully, I planted a few seeds, in my stupor, but I think that’s even a stretch…my hope, that is.  Hardened hearts are like the rocky soil in the Parable of the Seed Sower (found in Matthew 13).  The article I posted above should serve as a wake-up call to us all.  It is truly mind-boggling that death by suicide out-numbered death by combat this year in the US Military complex, even if it was just by one soul.  We need to offer support in the form of friendship, good counsel, as well as prayer, for these amazing men and women.  We need to show them that we care for them, support them, and want to help them as they make the move to maneuver their next steps in life.

Thankfully, two of the three men are getting out in a few months.  The third still has a few years of obligated service.  All three men were amazing individuals.  Fine gentlemen, bruised by experience, but tarrying on, thank goodness.  I pray right now, in Jesus’ name, that they will continue to encounter people willing to chip away gently and mindfully at their rightfully hardened hearts and remind them of the forgiveness, hope, peace, comfort, and love found in our Savior, the one true God.

I thank you for stopping by today, and I thank you for joining me in keeping our service members always in your prayers.

Until next time,

Vaya con Dios

This just came in from a military wife/sweet friend of mine.  It is in answer to my sincere request below and I’m very grateful to her for helping me.   She would like to add the following sentiments and I couldn’t agree more, and am actually sorry that I didn’t request prayer for military spouses and children as well.

“Remember their families endure a hardship as well. The soldier that leaves is not the one you get back…that can sometimes be a very hard adjustment for all involved.”

  ***for my military friends, PLEASE feel free to correct any of my thinking, if it is in err…I would appreciate continued insight, as well as guidance in how to offer the hope only found in Jesus Christ.

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