“Unfit For Continued Military Service”

 

despair-1436325-1920x1280I took the words to heart and accepted them to mean I was unfit as a minister and I was unfit as a person.

“The Officer is unfit because this condition prevents him from being able to perform the required activities of his AOC (56A, Chaplain Officer).” The first time I read these words on my Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) report on 03 October 2014 just one day after my 47th birthday I was devastated. I had spent 21 years in the Army giving my all, doing everything I needed to do in order to be fit for service. In just one moment, someone I had never met, signed his name to the PEB and sealed my fate and future as a Chaplain in the United States Army. I was now officially deemed to be unfit to continue serving in the Army. My career had come to an unceremonious end, it was over and all the schooling, training, experience and work had come to a crashing halt. There would be no retirement ceremony, no retirement party, no gathering of friends and family congratulating me for a career well done. There would not be any wacky gifts or cards, no rocking chair to sit in to anticipate the reminder of my life. There would be no awarding of the Legion of Merit in appreciation for a full and successful military career. I will always be 3 ½ years short of twenty years on active duty, I will never be a retired officer, I will always be a medically retired officer who is unfit for continued military service.

This simple phrase “unfit for continued military service” has haunted me for years and will continue to haunt me for many years to come. I loved being in the Army, I loved being a chaplain, I loved the discipline, the structure of the Army, the camaraderie of being a part of a team that is larger than oneself, the pride that comes from wearing the uniform of the United States Army. Was the Army perfect? Not even close. Was everyday roses and unicorns? No, although some days were. Were there days that I came home declaring this is it I’m done with the Army? Yes, there were more than a few days. Was I tired of being deployed, missing birthdays, holidays and special days? Yes. But I still loved being in the Army. I miss the good days, the great days, the excitement and the pride of being a Soldier. I miss standing in formation, hearing a command and instantly responding to the command along with everyone else in the formation. I was not ready to stop being a part of the active Army; I was still looking forward to years of active service.

Continue reading ““Unfit For Continued Military Service””

We Are Not Our Trauma

We are not the sum of our trauma, Our trauma is simply a part of who we are now.

The attack on our Combat outpost  Taji Market delivered a spiritual blow that shook the very foundation of my spiritual life. The following morning I woke up to the reality of the attack on our COP. I was faced once again with the duty of supervising another memorial ceremony, but this time I asked myself what difference does it makecamptaji_fpo There is no way our Soldiers could sit through another ceremony and listen to our empty words of encouragement and hope. I could not bring myself to accept that what we offered to our Soldiers mattered and that our message of hope had any real impact upon anyone. How many times could we read the Psalms, pray for God’s comfort and healing, share our belief of God’s protection and yet watch as even more Soldiers die? I was convinced that our Soldiers must view us with contempt and view our message as senseless and offensive. It was a revelation that hunted me for many years, a revelation that brought me to the deepest spiritual struggle that I had ever faced in my life.

Continue reading “We Are Not Our Trauma”

A Moment In Time

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.

Continue reading “A Moment In Time”