Thanking all who have served over the generations.
“Doing” is not living in the control of our trauma or the symptoms of PTSD, “Doing” is going out and moving forward!
I am at a significant turning point in my life, one that will make all the difference in my future. I am at the decision point of either living the way I have in the past or moving forward. I have mentally made the decision to move on and start living my life again and return to full-time ministry. However, just making the mental decision and commitment to move forward does not equate to actual action. The actual action only takes place when I’m actually “doing” something. It is all good and well to dream, think through, plan, talk and write about what I’m going to “do”, but until I “do” I’m just sitting around. I will not move forward until I “do”. Whether it’s looking for and applying for a job, improving my website or simply getting out and interacting with people. None of this will happen until I actually “do” something. I have had a desire for a while to minister to my fellow veterans. As a chaplain I’ve asked myself what needs do veterans have that I am able to meet, and how can I use my experiences to meet those needs. With talking with veterans and especially the veterans I have gone through treatment with there is one overwhelming need they present to me. That is “what do I do with God?” I have had veterans tell me their stories of going to war believing in God only to return questioning or denying the existence of God. Their stories are disconcerting. However, it’s more bewildering for a chaplain to return from war having those same questions. It is this need of my fellow veterans that I believe I have something to offer.
One of the reason’s I started this blog and website was to address some of the spiritual issues and questions. Since I started my blog in March, I thought at this point I would have hundreds of people reading my posts. However, I quickly realized developing a following as a blogger takes time and a lot of work. By writing and posting, I am “doing”. It would be easy to be happy with my “doing”, but my blog is not my entire vision, it is an important part, but only a part. I must continue to “do” or I will find myself hiding in my house behind my computer “doing”, but not really achieving my vision. For me, my vision is not accomplished until I expand my “doing” to actually meeting with and ministering to veterans face to face. This is the scary part; actually leaving the safety of my home to reach out to other’s who struggle with the question of “what do I do with God?” My next step of “doing” comes with holding veteran’s symposiums, where we deal with the question of “what to do with God?” we explore what moral and spiritual injury means and we look to the Scripture for the answer to these questions. The first symposium will be held on Saturday 29 July at First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas. Where we will discuss the moral and spiritual injury, watch a DVD and look to the Scriptures to find answers to our questions of “What do we do with God?” This is what “doing” looks like for me.
If we miss out on our freedom because of our war trauma, then the enemy has won.
My question for you is simple, “what are you “doing”? “Doing” is not living in the control of our trauma or the symptoms of PTSD. It is not living in fear, anger, resentment, or refusing to “do”. “Doing” is going out and moving forward despite these feelings. The thoughts and feelings will never go away, we will always struggle with them. However, it is not an excuse to not “do” nor is it justification to simply hide and avoid. If you are not “doing” you are not living, you are missing out, your own prison that you have made for yourself traps you in doing nothing. I certainly know that “doing” is so much harder. I understand the fear, the anger, and the resentment, I understand what it is like to hide and avoid. I understand the distress that is felt when faced with the thought of venturing out of our comfort and safe zones. We must not allow ourselves to be controlled by our trauma! We cannot live a life with no joy, no happiness, no peace, and no relationships. We have sacrificed too much and given too much to this nation, to stay defeated in our trauma. We cannot miss out on what we have provided for others and that is freedom. If we miss out on our freedom because of our war trauma, then the enemy has won. They have not just taken out one service member but have taken out our families, friends, spouses, children, and grandchildren. If you don’t “do” then what you fought for and sacrificed for is in vain. Don’t live in defeat, Go out and “DO”!
The last few days I have seen and read different post, tweets and Facebook post concerning Memorial Day. Some have been solemn as the author shares their memories of lost family members or battle buddies. I have read other posts where people are wishing others a happy Memorial Day. Others are reminding folks as they enjoying the day at the beach or having BBQs they should stop and remember those who laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. Some posters are even angry and mean-spirited, attacking those who spend the day with their families and friends enjoying their time together. It is clear there is no well-defined consensus on how Memorial Day should be observed. Some advocate that Memorial Day should always fall on May 30th as it was initially intended and not on the last Monday of May. Others want Memorial Day to not be an official holiday but a day of remembrance and honor as veterans Day is observed. Many see Memorial Day as only the first day of summer and forget there is a reason we observe a day of memorial for those who died in service to our country.
It is not my intention to present arguments to defend or attack anyone’s observation of Memorial Day. I just want to share my thoughts on Memorial Day. I do not get offended when people spend time with families and friends and enjoy themselves on Memorial Day. I do not resent those who go to the beach, the lake, and the back yard BBQs or parties over the Memorial Day weekend. Because I am reminded the reason we are able to enjoy this weekend is a direct result of those who gave their lives for our Nation. Because of them, we enjoy the freedom to spend the day at the beaches, the lakes, gathering together as friend and families and doing so without fear. I am reminded there are many people who were never able to enjoy a day together with family and friends; because no one ever stood up for freedom or was willing to lay down their lives for the cause of freedom. I am moved by those who post pictures, memories, poems and Scripture verses in remembrance of those who have died, in doing so they make observing Memorial Day more personal. I am proud to watch official Memorial Day observances, parades and to watch the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS each year. It reminds me of how unique and special we are as a nation as we remember our fallen heroes. I find courage as I pass cemeteries and see the individual flags that mark the graves of our fallen Veterans knowing this great nation exist because of these men and women. I am proud as an American to honor and remember all those who were willing to give their last full measure of devotion.
I am saddened there are many who see Memorial Day as just the beginning of the summer vacation season and I get irritated when people wish others a happy memorial day. I am not angry with them nor do I resent them. To tell the truth I pity them, as they will never fully understand nor appreciate the sacrifice that was made on their behalf. Yet, their actions or lack of action in honoring our fallen heroes does not in any way diminish the great sacrifice our service men and women made for this Nation.
Last Monday 01 May I drove to Killeen, Texas for some business. While I was there I made a stop at Ft. Hood, where I visited my old chapel the Ironhorse Brigade Chapel. From May 2005 to July 2008 I was the chaplain in charge of the chapel while serving as the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Chaplain. Inside the fellowship hall is this memorial to the 49 Brigade Troopers who died in combat and the 4 Brigade non-combat deaths. We lost a total 53 lives between October 2006 and January 2008. While I was viewing the memorial, I though about our deployment, about our troopers who died, I thought about those of us who returned home. I thought about those who suffered the physical and non-physical wounds of war. I thought about our families and how this war in Iraq had forever changed our lives. I thought about my own journey as the Brigade Chaplain and my struggles with PTSD. I don’t have any insights to offer today, no profound thoughts or spiritual lessons. I just have my thoughts.
I have thought about doing some video recording to add to my blog and I finally decided to give it a try. I thought since today is Good Friday it would be a good day to try my first video by reading the crucifixion account from the Gospel of Mark and providing a few comments after. The ending is a little rough, but as I continue recording they will become smoother. Please let me know what you think and if I should continue to add videos to my blog. Thank you so much for your support, please feel free to like and pass the website onto your family, friend and veterans you may know.
I 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.