The real question is not how you arrived, but how you will respond when you find yourself in your moment of time.
It was just a moment in time, one moment of many over my lifetime. A moment that in any other circumstance, I would have responded as I always did as an Army chaplain. It was a moment I had prepared for, a moment I had trained for, a moment I was ready to respond to. But as it turned out, it was not just another moment. It was more than the sum of what had just happened. It was a moment that brought together all the events of my life in a single snap shot, during a single moment of time. That one moment brought to light all of my fears. It raised questions and frustrations; it brought pain, a sense of hopelessness, weakness, doubt and desperation. It awaken a deep spiritual struggle within my faith, a questioning of my calling as a minister and as a chaplain, a questioning of what I was taught and what I believed to be true of God. That moment caused me to question my purpose as a Christian, a minister, a chaplain, a soldier, a husband, a father, and as a man. That single moment in August of 2007 left me standing in Iraq finding myself overwhelmed by a lifetime of struggle and a sense of hopelessness.
During that moment in Iraq, I find myself simply uttering these words “not again, were not even finished with this memorial ceremony and now we have to do it again.” What was uttered as frustration over another attack against our Troopers of the 2-8 Cav, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division was in reality the utterance of my soul’s cry of complete brokenness and loss of all that I had believed. My soul simply said, “enough”, I had finally reached the pinnacle of a lifetime of struggle, pain, frustration and hopelessness and I could go no further. That night, I walked out of the community building where our latest memorial ceremony was concluding for three of our Troopers from 1-7 Cav who had died. I told myself I was done and I was going to bed. As I headed to my hooch, I could see the smoke rising from the 2-8 Cav Combat Outpost (COP) that was established in Taji Market, just outside of our Forward Operating Base of Taji. As I headed to my hooch, the affects of the suicide attack against our COP were just beginning to become known. My response? I walked into my dark room, took my things off and went to bed.
In the darkness of my room, a deep and troubling struggle started within my soul that has forever changed my life. Unknown to me at the time, this struggle would lead me down a dark and desperate road, which ultimately left me in utter anguish. I found myself in an enormous soul-searching struggle, which nearly destroyed my faith in God, my calling and my purpose of being. This struggle eventually led me to the very edge of taking my own life. The despair was deep; I existed from day to day, not living, just existing. I carried out my daily duties as a chaplain, a soldier, and as a husband and a father, but did so with little enthusiasm or desire. Ultimately, this road led me to an Army medical board to determine my mental fitness to continue serving in the Army. In August of 2013, I was medically retired from the Army for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I had now lost my career and what had become for me, my identity as a man, a person, and more importantly a minister.
While my story is unique to my personal experience, it is not unique to the experience of humanity as a whole. The details of my struggle are unique to myself, but the struggle of emotional, physical and spiritual pain is not unique to any one individual. The struggle of pain, despair, hopelessness, helplessness and spiritual destitution is a result of a spiritually lost world. While your experiences which causes you pain are unique to you, painful experiences are a common thread in all of our lives. It doesn’t matter what the “cause” is, that brought you to your moment of time. What matters is that you find yourself in the same place that we all find ourselves in during our life times. The real question is not how you arrived, but how you respond when you find yourself in your moment of time.