This week our church First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas; suffered a tragedy as one of our church buses was involved in a fatal crash.
The bus carried 14 passengers who were returning from a senior citizen’s retreat. A pick-up truck crossed into the lane of the bus and crashed into it head on; of the 14 people aboard 13 were killed. There were only two survivors of this horrific crash the driver of the pick-up truck and the one person on the bus. I had seen news alerts throughout the day about this crash, but was unaware the church bus was from our church. Around 6:oo p.m. another news alert come over my phone and this time it mentioned the name of our church. My response was like so many from our church and throughout the community… one of shock.
When I started this blog in February, it was my intention to post a new post at least once a week if not twice a week. However, no matter how noble the intentions are, life gets in the way and in some cases the symptoms of PTSD get in the way. Last week I received a letter from the VA asking for a copy of my Physical Evaluation Board findings. They need the report to continue justifying one of the VA benefits I receive. This was no big deal, I had the form and it was no issue to drive to the VA hospital to drop it off. However, the emotional aspect of once again reading the report and seeing the phrase “unfit for continued military service” brought back a lot of uneasy feelings. I took the report with me to my Tuesday appointment with my therapist. We talked about it for a while and decided to continue the discussion during our next appointment. On the way home, I decided it would be a good topic to blog about. I started working on the blog post but found it was a bit harder than expected. While working on it, I came to the realization that it’s not going to be ready to post until next week. So I decided to write a short blog about one of our favorite activities. If you have read the get to know chaplain doll page, you will know that my family and I love to cruise
Taking our adult kids on a cruise May 20th, on the Carnival Valor.
Living in Texas, as we do, makes it easy to take cruises, as the port of Galveston is about three hours from where we live. Which makes it really convenient to cruise, as we don’t have the extra expense of air travel, hotel stays and transportation cost between the airport, hotel and the cruise terminal. Living close to Galveston saves us about $2000 per cruise. As a result, we take about one cruise a year. Sometimes it just Beth and I, which our adult children thinks is unfair. But hey, there should be some kind reward for us, for raising our kids successfully. Taking a cruise without them seems like just the right reward. But at last, they made us feel so bad last year that we have been cruising without them. That we booked a cruise for all of us for May 20th and gave it to them as a Christmas gift. So as of today, we have 57 days before our next family cruise, which by the way will be our first cruise where all of our children are adults. Which is scary in it self. Anyway, we are getting excited and the kids (adults) are also getting excited. We are going to Cozumel and to Yucatan, Mexico. We have booked a four-wheel ATV excursion in Cozumel, which should be lots of fun especially as we have never done an ATV excursion before. When we go to Yucatan, we are going to visit the beautiful Mayan City of Uxmal, (pronounced Ush-Mal) considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Mayan world. I figured we needed to do this because we are taking the kids. Everyone knows there has to be an educational moment when one takes the kids on vacation, even when they are adults. Sorry kids, but that is the price of going on a cruise with your parents.
I can once again declare with all certainty “That God’s love is never-ending, that He does not leave us in a state of hopelessness to wonder by ourselves in the midst of trouble.”
One of the symptoms of PTSD is the inability to remember details or facts about the traumatic event. Frequently when we are missing details about our traumatic events we experience unexplained fear, anger, resentment or even dazed confusion. Generally, this loss of memory can affect us for years. Instead of remembering the event itself or the details of the event, we are merely left with a big black cloud of nothing. Many times we wish we could remember what actually happened because staring into the dark abyss of lost memories is exhausting and wears upon one’s emotions.
A few weeks ago, I came across one of my Battalion Chaplains Dan Kersey on Facebook. He was the chaplain for the historic 1-7 Cavalry Battalion when I was the brigade chaplain during Iraqi Freedom 2006-2008. I have not talked with him since I left the brigade in the summer of 2008. 1-7 was the unit I referred to in my first blog post “A Moment in Time.” I wrote that the attack on 2-8 Cavalry Battalion in Taji Market happened during the memorial ceremony for 3 of the 1-7 Soldiers. I knew the attack against 2-8 happened in August of 2007 but I was unaware of the exact date. So I messaged Dan and asked if he remembered the date of the ceremony. He told me he would check his records. Roughly an hour later, he messaged me and said the only ceremony they had conducted for multiple soldiers was in December of 2007. I was surprised by this news, I was sure the attack took place during the 1-7 memorial ceremony. I began to doubt myself and wonder if the memories I had, really occurred. I spent the next few hours searching the web trying to match up these dates. During my search I found two websites. The first was a website that listed the names and dates of Texas service members who were killed in the Iraqi theater. The second website listed the suicide attacks that occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Between these two websites my memory of that day become clearer.
Once the door was closed I was in total darkness and I was unable to see out. However, I could still hear the dragon coming
When I was a child I had a recurring dream that I was trapped in a large room in a castle. This room was long and wide. There was nothing in the room except an old metal lantern that sat in the middle of the floor. The room was sterile, the floor was cold gray granite and the walls were roughhewed rock. Lanterns were spaced evenly on the walls around the room. Unlike the lantern on the floor, the ones on the walls were dimly lit. The room was cold and silent and I was alone and the dimness reminded me just how alone I really was. I remember in my dream hearing in a distant hallway the sound of a very large dragon walking towards the room. I heard the giant tail of the dragon dragging on the floor. From time to time the dragon would breath heavy and I could hear him snort. I remember being afraid and looking around for a place to hid but not finding anywhere. As the dragon came closer to the room, I looked at the lantern sitting on the floor. So I made the decision to crawl inside the lantern. There was barely enough room for me to fit. Once inside I had to twist myself around so I could close the door of the lantern with just two fingers. Once the door was closed I was in total darkness and I was unable to see out. However, I could still hear the dragon coming.
I vividly remember this dream like it was yesterday, although in reality it’s been 40 years or more. I can nevertheless remember just how lost and afraid I was. The fear and loneliness I felt was not only experienced in my dream but also carried over to when I woke up. I remember the feelings of desperation, loneliness, and the fear of having no one to care for me or rescue me from the dragon. Looking back upon it now, I realize the dream had to do with the physical and emotional abuse I was suffering as a child. Yet 40 years later, I can still profoundly recall the feelings of loneliness that the dream brought.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division Unit Ministry Team Taji, Iraq OCT 2006-Jan 2008
It was my intense honor to lead these great, dedicated and committed Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants.