September 21, 2015
Our Returning Veterans: Their Soul Wounds Are Killing Them!
This heavy black ring is normally worn on the right index finger to signify "the trigger finger", and all the issues that drive so many veterans to take their own lives. I choose to wear it on my left hand because I do not feel that I deserve to indicate that I can know what it is go to war or to suffer from the debilitating condition so often referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I was introduced to this ring as the symbol of the #22Kill movement at this year's Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit. Honor, Courage, Commitment, Inc. uses #22KILL as a platform to raise awareness not just towards veteran suicide, but also all of the issues that veterans face that can ultimately lead them to suicide; these issues include mental health, unemployment, and the challenges of transitioning out of the military.
Here is my concern ... our government, the Veterans Administration, and our nation is not adequately serving or helping our veterans because I think, first of all, they don't fully understand PTSD. Granted, over the last 14 years we have learned a lot about how war affects our soldiers. We know that these wars have also caused three major invisible wounds to service people at epidemic levels. These so-called "signature wounds" of our modern high-tech wars are (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Please forgive me -- I do not intend to offend anyone, but would I be correct in saying that sexual trauma or a brain injury are likely to leave physical wounds (along with psychological and emotional), and therefore establishing a healing protocol might be somewhat more straightforward? But the origins of PTSD is hard to diagnose. Every person reacts differently to the traumas of war; the wounds are not visible, and I fear that we may be missing the spiritual perspective.
The New York Times recently ran an excellent article about a returned Marine unit who was devastated by a disproportionate number of suicides. It was one of the hardest hit military units in Afghanistan: the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment. In 2008, the 2/7 deployed to a wild swath of Helmand Province. Well beyond reliable supply lines, the battalion regularly ran low on water and ammunition while coming under fire almost daily. During eight months of combat, the unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and suffered more casualties than any other Marine battalion that year.
When its members returned, most left the military and melted back into the civilian landscape. They had families and played softball, taught high school and attended Ivy League universities. But many also struggled, unable to find solace. And for some, the agonies of war never ended.
So why are we unable to stop the suicides? Is it because we try to treat it as a psychological problem and the easy solution is to treat it with massive amounts of pharmaceuticals? I can tell you from my interaction with Wounded Warriors at Fort Sam Houston, that appears to be the automatic first step for every veteran who displays symptoms of any form of psychological trauma. They have told me themselves!
I was quite interested when I ran across an article by Edward Tick, Ph.D., Executive Director and Co-founder of Soldier’s Heart. In full disclosure, I have not fully researched Dr. Tick's organization, (and some of his discourse sounds too "new age-y" for me), so I would recommend you do your own investigation before endorsing it to others. That being said, I find it extremely interesting that he is willing to say that there is a spiritual component to healing from PTSD, and that we must recognize that far too many of our returning veterans are suffering from "soul wounds".
Just read some of the following comments that were stated in the NY Times article by the returning veterans of the 2/7 Marine unit, and you can see that this perspective might be closer to the truth: "Something happens over there; you wake up a primal part of your brain you are not supposed to listen to, and it becomes a part of you... You come back and try to be a normal kid, but there is always a shadow on you, a dark shadow you can never take away... Now, when I meet someone, I already know what they look like dead. I can’t help but think that way. And I ask myself, ‘Do I want to live with this feeling for the rest of my life, or is it better to just finish it off?... The death of my brothers consumes me; It gives me this dark energy... We all have our demons. Some more than others."
There it is. Veterans are saying it themselves and identifying what I believe is at the root of their despondency; and it's a darkness that encompasses them, a sinister energy that lies to them, sometimes even seeming to speak to their wounded souls.
I can't prove it. And I have no evidence. But my spirit and soul are telling me that our returning veterans are fighting a dark force in the spiritual realm; one that all those long waits at the VA hospitals, ineffective therapists (who don't understand the spiritual component), and doctors' over-reliance on drugs will never cure. Our veterans don't need psychological counseling and a bag full of pills. They are combat veterans and someone needs to show them how to do what they do best -- but in the spiritual realm. They need to recognize Jesus as the Commander of their spiritual army and to know that they are not waging this soul-wounding battle on their own! I know it may sound overly simplistic, but they need to know that although they are battle-tested warriors, they need a new kind of training. Satan is waging a war that they don't know how to fight, and the weapons that the VA is offering are not only ineffective, but the drugs are aiding and abetting the Enemy!
The epidemic of veteran suicides is a painful disgrace upon this nation. But until we recognize that these soldiers need to be equipped to fight in the spiritual realm, healing will only be superficial. True restorative healing must come from knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior and from recognizing who they are still fighting in the spiritual realm. Healing will come when their wounded souls are healed with the knowledge that there is a battle being waged for their minds and it's from an Enemy they cannot see. They will heal when they follow their new Commander-in-Chief and recognize that their battle belongs to the Lord and He has already won it!
Isaiah 1:6 "From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil."