A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military. Show all posts

November 7, 2017

Triumph and Tragedy

     I write this post today from a position of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, as well as with a heart that is deeply saddened.  We had just ended our four-day retreat for Christian female military veterans and were having an assessment meeting when we got the news of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.  It is difficult to express the sense that the intense victories we had experienced over the Enemy this weekend were tarnished for just a moment by this profound evil.
     You see, that little church is only about 45 minutes from where I live, and Mark and I have visited that church to hear a friend preach. This was too close to home and personal. But it only took a moment for us in Leadership to declare that Evil will never overcome the Light... the Light of Jesus will continue to shine even during the darkest of times.  And I do not want this tragedy to overshadow the life-giving work done by our Savior at the retreat.  So, let me share those thoughts, and I will make a final comment on the tragedy at the end of this post.
     It was such a blessing to have been invited to this retreat, and from the beginning, the devil tried to interfere. Several of the female veterans tried to cancel at the last minute, but with encouragement on our part, and courage on theirs, they took a leap of faith and boarded those planes, coming from California, Arizona, Washington D.C., and North Carolina.  There were some disappointments ... one Seeker had car trouble and missed her flight and decided to return to her home.  We pray that God will arrange another opportunity.  And at first, we fought disillusionment that the number of women we were expecting dropped off by half, to where we only had six women show up. But God knew what He was doing!
     That small number of Seekers allowed us to create an intimate atmosphere in which we were able to minister to them in a more personal and individual way.  Add to this situation the fact that many of the women on the Leadership team (which included female vets, along with four of us who were civilians) were first-time participants in a Christian Warriors Retreat event. It allowed us to weather the storms of a first-time retreat without sacrificing what we wanted to accomplish. In the end, the opportunity to spend 4 days encountering Jesus was a journey for each one of us.
    And as with any first-time event, there were rough patches, but we had the advantage of learning from the nine male veteran retreats that preceded ours.  At first, we fought schedule interruptions, but decided that everything would be on God's timing and under the Holy Spirit's direction. Once we let go of that concern, we were ready to see what God had in store for these women.
     I do not want to betray any confidences, but I will tell you that, as expected, it was a spiritual battle from beginning to end.  The devil tried to throw personality conflicts at us; spirits of rebellion and pride and divisiveness; and an occasional physical trauma.  But we knew our authority and the power of our Lord to overcome any opposition from our spiritual enemies. Every time we were confronted with an obstacle, we fought back by praying against the spirits, praying for God's will to be done in a particular situation, and laying on of hands to correct sudden and severe back pain, bodies that were out of alignment, and lengthening legs where one was shorter than the other.  We were not going to give up ground when Jesus wanted to set these women free!
     And how precious these women were!  Each one had her own particular beauty and strengths. But also, you could see the battle going on inside them.  At the risk of being politically incorrect -- and in no way, is it my intention to insult or condemn the brave service of these women to our country -- but I cannot imagine how women go to war and DO NOT come home with some sort of trauma, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  And some of these women are married to men who are, or were, in the military, too.  So add that combustible element to the mix, and you could see the pain in their eyes.
     But Jesus wanted them free!  Slowly, hour by hour, and day by day, we saw them begin to let down their guard as they trusted us.  The female vets who were on the Leadership Team shared their testimonies, pointing the way to each woman's significance in the Kingdom; the absolute need to forgive; the importance of prayer and how to pray; what Christian action and Discipleship looks like; how we can identify with the Prodigal son; the value of perseverance; and then left them with a Battle Plan to keep the freedom they received during the retreat.
     And let me tell you ... when you hear the life stories of the Leadership, which encompassed abusive husbands, rape, abortion, molestation, promiscuity, adultery, alcoholism, etc., it broke your heart to know that your Sisters in Christ had endured such pain in their lives.  But, oh the redemption! They shared how Jesus freed them from shame, guilt, blame, unforgiveness, feeling lost and without hope, and then set them upon a journey to grow into the clean, purified, blameless, and strong women that stood before us.  Let's just say, a lot of kleenex was handed out during those four days.
     But these veteran Leaders spoke Truth and Hope into the lives of the younger veterans.  They declared that they were washed clean by the power of Jesus's blood and they had new identities and new names ... a child of God; the daughter of the King; and the Bride of Christ.  Slowly, we saw eyes begin to shine, heads held higher, and they began seeing Jesus as the solution to their trauma and their issues. We watched them begin to open up, and through their Leader's testimonies they received evidence that it is ALWAYS Jesus's desire to redeem lives... but you have to seek Him, confess the sins in your life, ask for His forgiveness, and then receive the overflowing abundance of His love and the freedom He offers.
     Women who had arrived with wariness and distrust left with confidence that their demons (both literal and figurative) had been defeated. There were late nights filled with hearing their stories, and afternoons spent in the presence of the Lord, as all those painful wounds were healed. As part of Leadership, I got about 4 hours of sleep each night, as we prayed for the Holy Spirit to reveal the blockage in their spirits, and discussed how to partner with Jesus to see them set free. And always ... always .... the answer was to point them to Jesus to receive their answers and strategy. In the end, with each of those six Seekers, and several of the Leadership team, there was a relationship with Jesus that had been forged through tears, confession, and surrender.  Spirits were lighter and hearts were cleansed.
     To seal everyone's new identity, we were blessed with a special dinner on the last night.  It was kept secret until we entered the dining hall, which had been transformed into a wedding feast.  White linen, china settings, pearls and flowers.  We were Brides!  We were seated and served by the men who served as our retreat "angels" (who spent the entire four days praying for us, interceding for us, and showing us into the presence of Jesus in the "Bridal tent"). We saw ourselves worthy of the King and to be called His Bride.  Oh, how I wish I could describe the radiant looks on their faces as they walked into that beautiful wedding feast.  Words fail me, but it is a memory that will never fade.
     The final day, we had a closing ceremony and the local community came to celebrate with our Seekers.  They were invited to come and answer two questions before the public ... What did you get out of this retreat?  And what are you going to do with it?  Leadership sat there holding their breath.  Were our efforts to encourage a relationship with Jesus enough to make a difference in their lives?  Would anyone feel their experience was so transforming that they wanted to share it with the people in attendance?  And finally, would they keep Jesus to themselves or share Him when they returned home?
     Imagine our surprise when two of the quietest and most shy of the six got up to declare that Jesus had set them free and they were going to go back home and encourage other female vets to come to this retreat. There were tears from the podium, in the audience, and from the Leadership team. Thank you, Jesus! We had grown to love these women and now we were sending them out into the world to resume their lives, and all we could do is pray they keep their freedom.  We had done the best we could to point them to Jesus; we had overcome Satan's fiery darts; and now the inaugural female veteran retreat was over.  The Enemy was defeated!

     That sense of victory was literally maybe 15 minutes old, when we started getting the text messages about Sutherland Springs.  What we initially felt was a safe place was now a target.  i remembered my husband asking me if I was going to take my handgun with me (I am licensed to carry, and highly trained).  I said, "I'm going to a retreat for Christian female veterans at a secluded retreat center. I'll be fine".  I felt there was no threat... until there was.  We would have been a perfect target.  The Director of the retreat and I drove three of the Seekers to Houston to the airport -- a seven hour round trip -- in a church van, and I can tell you, we felt vulnerable.
     But it didn't take me long to declare this attack is because the devil is getting scared.  He sees small pockets of the Remnant becoming stronger in our ability to fight in this spiritual battle, and he must ramp up his opposition.  He is fighting back because we are winning!  This retreat was about bringing the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the forefront of these women's lives, but it was equally a testament to fighting in the spirit, applying the blood of Jesus to strongholds and powers of darkness, and developing spiritual battle plans to overcome the Enemy and take back spiritual territory.
     As extremely sad as the Sutherland Springs tragedy is, we can rejoice that God knew that very morning that those 26 spirits would be returning home.  He has known since the foundation of time.  We can rejoice that Satan and all his demons know they are going to lose this battle!  They see us rising up in spiritual warfare, and they know we are gaining valuable revelation from Heaven as to how to fight in the spiritual realms.  He is angry because we are winning and we are not going to stop!
     So, I ask you to pray for continued revelation; that more people will join us in spiritual warfare; and that the Heavenly host will come down to protect us from any more of these tragic displays of evil.  Bless the spirits of those killed, and the families who must now arrange for 26 funerals.  Father God, give us the strength to mount up for battle, while remaining in Your mercy and grace.  We are ready to follow you into battle, Jehovah Nissi! We know the battle is Yours, and we are neither afraid nor dismayed. We know that You will deliver our enemies into our hands.  Praise You!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9      We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 

November 1, 2017

An Invitation To Our Military Veterans

     Although Veteran's Day is still more than a week away, it is never too early to be focusing on honoring our nation's Military veterans.  Also, I have a very unique opportunity this coming weekend to serve as Assistant Spiritual Director for a Christian retreat for retired female military veterans.  I will be serving as a part of a team under the auspices of an organization called Christian Warriors Retreat. And I want to call attention to the need for our military to accept an invitation from Jesus to lay their burdens down.
     CWR is the brainchild of Nick "Doc" Lowry, the son of a career Navy man and a Vietnam era Marine grandfather. Not surprisingly, Doc grew up with a passion for the military and became a Marine corpsman. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003, and to Fallujah in 2004 during Operation Phantom Fury.  Like many military veterans, Doc came home with a lack of trust and the inability to relate to civilian life, which resulted in bouts of alcoholism.  It cost him two marriages; he couldn't keep a job, and his diagnosis of PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Disorder) left him feeling he had no hope.
     Long story short, Doc reunited with his best friend in high school, Nikki, who introduced him to Jesus, they married, and in 2008, he gave his life to Christ.  He has rededicated his life to helping other vets heal through a personal relationship with Jesus. That's where the Christian Warriors Retreat comes in.
     Through the 4-day retreat experience and discipleship, CWR initiates and sustains three levels of success for veterans:  They will understand their value in Christ; they will heal and improve vital relationships; and most importantly, they will find God's mission for which they were created.
     What an important mission for our veterans!  As the proud daughter of a WWII Navy veteran, my dad never discussed his experiences as a tailgunner over the Pacific.  But after having the honor of being on the Board of Directors of the Chris Kyle Memorial Foundation, and serving wounded warriors and their families at the Fisher Houses at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, I have seen the devastation to the flesh and spirits of our military veterans.
Doc Lowry
     Doc Lowry also knows firsthand the sacrifice made by his Veteran community.  And he is doing something about starting the healing process by working with Jesus.  But, the average civilian is unaware of some of the startling statistics that surround the veterans.  Let me share just a few of them with you:  Every 65 minutes, a military veteran commits suicide; 22 military veterans commit suicide every day; 31 of these suicides were veterans aged 49 and younger; Every month nearly 1,000 veterans attempt to take their own lives; That's more than one attempt every half hour; About 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives; The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 10% -- this is higher than the national rate of 7.3%; More than 2 million American children have coped with a parent going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; As many as one half million of those children may have become clinically depressed; The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed signs of substance abuse disorder; The divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
      Heard enough facts? Can you see the devil's tactics of "steal, kill, and destroy"? War should not be the natural state of man, if we are made in God's image.  So you can see where all this damage to our veterans is coming from, right?  They may have come home from some battlefield on earth, but there is a spiritual battle going on for their souls.  (I have written several articles on the spiritual war our veterans face, but this one seems particularly fitting considering my subject today).
     With Veteran's Day in another week and a half, I just wanted to put a spotlight on this organization who is trying to help our veterans by focusing on the healing powers of Jesus in their lives.  What a breath of fresh air from government-sponsored programs that do nothing about healing the inner wounds of our servicemen and women.  Only Jesus can do that! And I am anxious to see the new movie, Thank You For Your Service, in which the director, Jason Hall, likens it to a "spiritual sequel to American Sniper", saying, "[It's about] the return home of the warrior -- it's about home coming. It's about the return to self. And the warriors blessed with all the masculine gifts of heroism. And then the warrior has to turn inside. It's finding a way back into the light and that's what this movie is about".  Of course, we and Doc Lowry know how imperative it is that our warriors find their way into the Light of Jesus.  Through His Light they will be restored to a new life in Him. 
     And I am excited about being a part of the very first Female Veterans Retreat.  I think that oftentimes they are overlooked and no one is seeing to their healing.  But I am blessed to be a part of an amazing group of women leaders who will be ministering to these female veterans as they are restored and renewed through our support, and the unconditional love of Jesus.  So, I ask for your prayers beginning tomorrow and through Sunday, when we will see the results of this retreat.  Our goal is to let them meet Jesus and receive His forgiveness, His love, and the cleansing power of His Blood.  They may be arriving as spiritually wounded female veterans, but they will be leaving as healed and renewed Daughters of the King! 
     Give me a couple of days after returning home on Sunday to process all that Jesus will have done in the lives of these remarkable women, and then I will write about the experience. Also, if you make any comments, I won't be responding to them until Sunday night, but I will post them and give you my follow-up comments. I just want to leave you with this ... The very thought of how Jesus will revive the spirits of these women, heal their broken hearts, and redeem their souls fills me with such joy and anticipation!  Praise Him, all who love Him!

This Veteran's Day, let us renew our commitment to our veterans and pledge our efforts to begin a spiritual revival within their ranks.  Please check out www.christianwarriorsretreat and support this important effort to bring spiritual healing to the veterans of our nation. Consider sponsoring a veteran to attend the next retreat. Thank you!  
John 8:12    Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”       

December 9, 2015

A New Reality and A New Kind of Doctor: Urban Battlefield Medic

     Amid the human and personal stories being revealed in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack comes a rather intriguing one.  It is the story of Dr. Michael Neeki, a trauma physician and emergency room doctor at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) in Colton, California, where many of the victims of that tragedy were transported.
Dr. Neeki at a press conference for the
victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
     But Dr. Neeki wears many hats.  He is the chief medical officer of San Bernardino County's probation department and also volunteers as a member of the Inland Valley SWAT team.  He is the only physician/medic on the team, and he trains alongside his fellow SWAT team members for just such a scenario as San Bernardino.  And he is uniquely qualified.
     He was born in Iran and drafted into the Iran/Iraq war at age 18.  He served his native country in war and believes this gives him valuable experience in treating victims of gun violence, or as he puts it, "[I am] mentally and tactically a little more experienced than the other physicians here."  But in 1988, he was forced to leave his homeland after suffering as a political prisoner because of his opposition to the increasingly radical and religious Iranian regime.  Twenty-seven years later, in his adopted homeland of America, he put those skills and mindset to work as he labored, not only to mend and heal, the victims of San Bernardino, but to protect them from the rampage.
     When the first calls went out, he grabbed his rifle and tactical equipment and headed for the "hot zone", where he could put his tactical training to good use, as well as utilizing the medical pack that he carries.  "You have to be ready to put in a tourniquet to avoid the bleeding, or quickly staple a wound in the field. Or use an Israeli bandage, which is a compression dressing. I also have a clotting factor you could put in a lesion."
     So now, as a member of the Rialto SWAT team, he is working to upgrade the medical assistance that his team members can deliver in the field.  He's certified to carry a gun and participates in the team's tactical drills.  His experience on the battlefield is increasingly valuable today because injuries such as those seen in the San Bernardino shootings have become more common. "So, we saw this rifle injury-type pattern, which rips and shreds apart organs in your body, tissues in the body, and vessels as they're going through."
     Sadly, this is becoming the reality that our emergency medicine doctors must face.  I fear that the attacks in California last week will not be the last.  Western civilization's enemy has made it clear that they wish to inflict as much carnage as they are able to, and that they are not limiting their attacks to Europe.  Therefore, because of his unique background and experience, Dr. Neeki now wants to expand the emergency medicine residency at ARMC to give young doctors the exposure they need to such mass casualties, and at the same time, elevate the skill levels of [SWAT] paramedic team members.
     Dr. Neeki envisions ARMC residents (and doctors throughout the country) playing roles in the developing field of tactical medicine by connecting with area SWAT teams.  He said it is important for SWAT team paramedics to have advanced training in wound care, airway management techniques, and procedures for spinal injuries.  Since these first responders are obviously the first on the scene, they are invaluable in providing immediate front-line medical care to the victims of such attacks.  Precious life-saving moments will not be lost waiting for ambulances to arrive to transport the wounded and injured.
     As much as we don't want to admit it, we must change the dynamic of how we will treat these urban mass casualty events.  It is likely that doctors will become part healer and part soldier; prepared to imitate battlefield medicine that their counterparts do in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.  If like, Dr. Neeki, they actually have military experience, they can be trained to both defend the public and save lives.
     Training medical professionals to become soldiers will not sit well with every American.  But for Americans like Dr. Michael Neeki, who is now a U.S. citizen, being on-scene to treat the trauma from gunshot wounds in those first crucial seconds is one of the reasons he thinks doctors should be members of first-reponder units.  "I am here because I came for democracy," said Dr. Neeki.  "It's sad to see that you come miles from across the world, and to see something like that here... [But I want] to show ISIS what we are made of."
     We must face it -- Tactical medicine is the new reality, whether we like it or not.  And I believe it is a good thing that Iranian-Americans like Dr. Michael Neeki are willing to show us how to better save lives.  Yes, the worst of the Middle East was seen in that conference room in San Bernardino last week, but we also saw the best of those who have come to this country, seeking the freedom we have to offer, and with a desire to pay back this society and nation who have given them such great opportunities.   You see, blind hatred does not belong to just one ethnic group or nationality.  It is the hallmark of the Evil One, and can permeate any soul.  But our God can take someone out of that same cesspool of hatred and shape a heart committed to defending and healing his fellow man.
     The world is seeing a new reality -- one that has us all on edge.  But never dismiss the goodness and mercy of the Lord that shines through one man's actions.  That is showing what our God is made of!

Proverbs 24:11    Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter.

November 11, 2015

Thoughts On This Veteran's Day ...


     As I contemplate the ongoing service of our nation's military veterans, I am nearly overcome with emotion.  This nation has been at war for over 14 years, and the continued dedication of most of our military personnel -- in the face of exhaustion, dismantlement, disrespect, and dishonor from the likes of the Veterans Administration -- amazes and astonishes me.
     We have fought in big wars under a Republican President (Afghanistan and Iraq), and small wars under a Democratic President (Libya and Yemen, for the obvious ones), and it has cost us nearly 7,000 lives and billions of dollars.   Unlike the last World War, there doesn't seem to be an end goal in sight, and the path to victory seems blurred.  Yet the men and women who fight in our armed forces remain steadfast and unwavering in their commitment to defend this nation from enemies foreign and domestic.  And in that, they share the legacy of all those who have come before them.
     Would it astound you to know that the total number of Americans killed in U.S. Wars is more than 1.1 million?  And that doesn't take into account the veterans who fought in the French & Indian War before this nation officially existed.  And would it further amaze you to know that America has been at war -- in one form or another -- for 222 out of its 239 years?  That's 93% of its existence!!  That leaves us with the fact that we have only been at peace for 21 years since the birth of this nation! (For a year-by-year timeline of America's major wars from 1776-2011, click here.)  Whether these statistics mirror the experience of all mankind is a subject for another day; today I want to focus on those who have served our nation in armed combat.
     Along with those facts come the statistics of our fallen veterans ... Nearly half a million died in our Civil War, and over 400,000 in World War II; and, as I mentioned, we have lost nearly 7,000 veterans in the Global War on Terror.  These are the statistics coming from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
     As exemplified by the numbers, about 12% of the population served during WW II, resulting in the fact that most Americans were likely to know or be connected to someone in the military.  Today, less than 1% serve, and there is the danger that our society is suffering from a disconnect -- we are less likely to know what is going on, someone who has served, or what they have experienced.
     Gala True, a medical anthropologist and folklorist with the Department of Veterans Affairs and contributor to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, says, “So few have served, that it’s very easy for people to say that ‘I didn’t want these wars,’ but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t all part of this [experience of war]".  So that is one aspect that is different for this generation of veterans.
      Author James Fallows, of The Atlantic, writes, "When I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s and then older in the ’70s, American pop culture reflected a country familiar enough with its military to make fun of it at times. You had shows like “Gomer Pyle,” or “Hogan’s Heroes,” or “”McHale’s Navy.”  You had works of art like “South Pacific” or novels like “Catch 22″ and even movies like “MASH.” {These films] respected the importance of the military and the important things it did that were heroic in the large scale, like World War II, but it was still made of real people with their real foibles.  But now we have started to have this artificially reverent view of the military that’s also distant and disengaged."
    There is another important distinction that separates this generation of Americans from those of the past.  During World War II, even if you didn't actively serve, you participated, through rationing, scrap drives, blood drives, and so on.  Everyone was connected to the war effort.  And everyone believed in our mission.
     Can we agree that this is no longer the case?  Or that it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify our mission?  There are those who will point to our astounding statistics of war since WW I -- the cost in treasure and lives -- and say that it points to our lust for war, and supports a 2014 International Gallup poll that America is the #1 threat to peace in the world.  I dispute that.  But I must admit that I no longer have a clear vision of our national leaders and their perspective or objectives concerning this nation's involvement in world conflicts.
     That being said, my support for our nation's veterans will never waver.  I am in awe of their continued sacrifice and willingness to put the safety and security of this nation before themselves and their families.  It is an unselfish act to step into the gap between their fellow countrymen and an enemy that desires to defeat us -- and it is both honorable and righteous.
     So I salute all this nation's veterans; from the first colonial farmer who grabbed his musket and joined the ragtag Continental Army, to the millions who have served over the last 239 years; from the 18-year-old recruit at boot camp to the elite fighting forces of our special operations units.  This salute is not about the morality of wars we have fought, or the policies of Presidents.  It is about the veterans.  They have served so that others might live their lives free.  Such service by an individual towards his fellow man deserves our absolute respect.  May God Bless you all for your sacrifice and your commitment to our nation.

Isaiah 6:8    And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."


November 4, 2015

What Is The State Of Our Military?

     I took a good look at a recent survey of our U.S. Military by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.  The highlights of their 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength revealed some interesting ratings.
     For instance they ranked U.S. Military Power as "marginal", with the Army rating a "weak" score. Considering that the Army is the largest branch of our Armed Forces, that should make us sit up and take notice.
     And if that's not enough to make you uneasy, here is how they rated Threats to U.S. Vital Interests:   Iran and the Middle East received an "Elevated" ranking; Russia, China, and terrorism associated with Afghanistan/Pakistan received a rating of "High"; and North Korea was rated as "Severe".  It should not be surprising that the Heritage Foundation found these nations to be particularly aggressive during 2015, and they expect that the rapid modernization and expansion of their offensive military capabilities will make these especially worrisome continuing into 2016.  Russia's swift and vigorous involvement in the Middle East is evidence that these predictions are most likely on the mark.
     And which of us have any faith in the so-called pact with Iran over their nuclear proliferation?  Does anyone really believe that they intend to honor any treaty they have made?  They have said as much; that they will continue on the path towards nuclear weapons development and the annihilation of Israel.
     So all this makes the Heritage Foundation's assessment of U.S. Military Power more relevant.  I want you to read, word-for-word, their evaluation .... "Finally, we assessed the military power of the United States in three areas: capability, capacity, and readiness. These three areas of assessment are central to the overarching questions of whether the U.S. has a sufficient quantity of appropriately modern military power and whether military units are able to conduct military operations on demand and effectively.
     The common theme across the services and the United States’ nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity. While the military has been heavily engaged in operations, primarily in the Middle East but elsewhere as well, since September 11, 2001, experience is both ephemeral and context-sensitive. Valuable combat experience is lost over time as the servicemembers who individually gained experience leave the force, and it maintains direct relevance only for future operations of a similar type. Thus, though the current Joint Force is experienced in some types of operations, it is still aged and shrinking in its capacity for operations."
     The Army is "weak" because of a drop in the number of combat-ready troops.  The Navy's fleet is diminished and struggling to meet operational demands.  The index score for the Air Force dropped from "strong" to "marginal", due to a degradation in capability and readiness.  The fighting competence of the Marines is superb, but it is hampered by aging equipment; troubled replacement programs for its key ground vehicles (particularly its amphibious personnel carriers); and a shrinking force.  (That's why it is so difficult to see ISIS driving around the Middle East in our abandoned military trucks and equipment).  Perhaps the most alarming finding of the Heritage Foundation's survey was the greater need to modernize U.S. nuclear capabilities, particularly with regard to aging delivery systems. Continued reliance on legacy systems such as the B-52 will eventually diminish the effectiveness of the nuclear enterprise of our military and lead to the deterioration of our nation’s ability to deter a nuclear attack.
     The overall picture that the Heritage Foundation painted was one of a U.S. military force capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict, while also managing various "presence" and "engagement" activities.  BUT, they also concluded that our military would be very hard-pressed to do more than that, and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous major regional incidents.
     The bottom line is this:  The consistent decline in funding and the consequent shrinking of our armed forces have placed it under significant pressure.  Essential maintenance of equipment continues to be deferred; fewer units (mostly the Navy’s platforms and the Special Operations Forces community) are being cycled through operational deployments more often, and for longer periods; and old equipment is being extended while programmed replacements are problematic.
     Let's face it.  Add all these factors together, and we have a U.S. military that is "marginally" able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.  So what does this say about the Military-Industrial Complex?  Either they have been gutted by the decimation of funding for our forces; or the corruption is so extensive throughout the Government and Pentagon, that pockets are being lined while the lives of our combat troops are ignored and exploited.  Either way, the common defense of the nation seems to have collapsed, or even been deliberately sacrificed.
     At times like this, I always wonder what the intention was at the founding of our nation.  How would the Founders have viewed the state in which we find our military and national defense?  Consider what James Madison had to say:  "In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people ... Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied: and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
     So where does this leave us?  Certainly, war seems to have been the ever-present companion of man for the last century.  But even in the Old Testament, war was prominent, and often seen as "holy"; often declared by God.  And we are all familiar with the Scripture in Ecclesiastes that says "there is a time for war, and a time for peace."  Ever since St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) formulated the theory of the Just War, it seems that man has rationalized his way into ever-increasing states of war.  To be honest, I don't have a crystal ball to see where our decline in military strength and capability leads us.  Will the next Presidential election change the direction we are headed?  Or is it too late?  Has our weakness been exploited past the time of no return?  Only God sees the future.  All I know is that I long for His Peace and the absence of all the Evil I see.  But I also know that there has to be one final War on Earth before the Prince of Peace comes to reign.  Perhaps we are seeing the world line up, and build up, towards that final conflagration?

Exodus 15:3    "The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name."


October 5, 2015

When Morals Override Policy

     Let me give you a quote from our first President, George Washington.  It is a single sentence from his first Inaugural Address, given on April 30, 1789.  He said, "The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable (unchanging) principles of private morality, and the preeminence (superiority) of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world."
SFC Charles Martland
     This quote is the basis on which I am declaring my support for Charles Martland. In case you do not know who he is, Sergeant 1st Class Charles Martland, is a member of the Green Beret Special Forces, who is being separated involuntarily from the U.S. Army for kicking and body slamming an Afghan police commander he describes as a “brutal child rapist.”
     According to Martland and other members of our U.S. forces, the apparent culture of [sexual] abuse has caused the Afghan population to view the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and the U.S. soldiers who back and train them, as worse than the Taliban – offering serious blowback to the already challenged U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
     According to an article in The New York Times, rampant sexual abuse of children by Afghan officers — otherwise known as “bacha bazi” or “boy play” — isn’t new. While some U.S. soldiers and Marines have specifically been told not to intervene, they have chosen to do so anyway in the face of potential disciplinary action.  Hence, we have the story of SFC Martland and former Captain Daniel Quinn, who were disciplined by the Army after they beat a powerful local police official who they concluded had been raping a small boy.  Such discipline is allegedly part of the unspoken requirement from the Chain of Command to ignore such activities among the local Afghan allies; you know .... "just look the other way because it’s their culture.”
     But let me quote SFC Martland's side of the story, and then you tell me if you could turn a blind eye and ear to such immoral acts.  Quinn and Martland were told by a young Afghan boy and his mother, through an Afghan interpreter, that the boy had been tied to a post at the home of Afghan Local Police commander Abdul Rahman and raped repeatedly for up to two weeks. When his mother tried to stop the attacks, they told the soldiers, Rahman’s brother beat her. Quinn says he verified the story with other ALP commanders from neighboring villages. Then they invited Rahman to the camp to discuss the allegations.
     “After the child rapist laughed it off and referenced that it was only a boy, Captain Quinn picked him up and threw him,” Martland writes. Martland then proceeded to “body slam him multiple times,” kick him in the rib cage, and put his foot on his neck. “I continued to body slam him and throw him for fifty meters until he was outside the camp,” Martland writes. “He was never knocked out, and he ran away from our camp.” The incident lasted no more than five minutes, he says.
     Quinn told CNN that they took the action they took because otherwise nothing would be done by the Army or local authorities. “The reason we weren’t able to step in with these local rape cases was we didn’t want to undermine the authority of the local government,” he said. “We were trying to build up the local government. Us acting after the local government fails to can certainly undermine their credibility.... Even when we patiently explained how serious the charge was, he kept laughing. As a man, as a father of a young boy myself at the time, I felt obliged to step in to prevent further repeat occurrences.”  And you must understand that these rapes are oftentimes occurring at U.S. military installations, making the locals look upon our troops as complicit.  It is not exactly the best way to develop an atmosphere of trust among the Afghani people.
     But it is the words of Marine Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. in that New York Times article that are especially haunting.  Before he was gunned down in Helmland Province in 2012 by a 17-year-old Afghan ‘tea boy’ for a local police chief, Buckley told his father that at night he could hear Afghan officers sexually abusing young boys, but there was nothing he could do about it.  "At night we can hear them screaming... it made me sick to my stomach."
     Naturally, officials at the Pentagon deny that there are explicit orders to ignore the rape of children.  But they will also admit that policing the local population is not "the priority of their mission".  But I ask you, what are our soldiers expected to do?  In a written statement requested by House Armed Services Committee member, Representative Duncan Hunter, Martland stated, "While I understand that a military lawyer can say that I was legally wrong, we felt a moral obligation to act."
     And should that not be this man's primary duty?  A military without the "private morality" that this nation's first Commander-in-Chief extolled will become nothing less than a cold, heartless machine designed to wage war.  Obviously, by ignoring the abuse of these Afghan boys, we were not commanding the respect of the Afghan people --- and our soldiers could not respect themselves.
     I applaud the courage and the boldness of Sergeant 1st Class Charles Martland and Captain Daniel Quinn.  While the official military position is that they took the law into their own hands in the form of vigilantism, I prefer to look upon their actions as those of moral, righteous men.  The words of Anglo-Irish statesman and political theorist Edmund Burke have never been more appropriate ... "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  Thank God that there are men like Martland and Quinn who exemplify this truth.

3 John 1:11    "Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God."

September 21, 2015

Our Returning Veterans: Their Soul Wounds Are Killing Them!

     I wear it on the index finger of my left hand; next to my mother's simple gold wedding band on my middle finger, and my own wedding ring on my ring finger.  It's not a fashion ring; there's nothing flashy or even fancy about it.  It's not even expensive; and actually it's a little clunky looking ... awkwardly solid and heavy, to be exact.  But when I put it on, it is a blatant and glaring reminder of a fact that I must not dismiss or ignore ... the staggering statistic that an average of 22 veterans are killed by suicide every day (VA 2012).
     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.
     Almost seven years after the deployment, suicide is spreading through the old unit like a virus. Of about 1,200 Marines who deployed with the 2/7 in 2008, at least 13 have killed themselves; two while on active duty, the rest after they left the military. The resulting suicide rate for the group is nearly four times the rate for young male veterans as a whole and 14 times that for all Americans.
     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."

July 22, 2015

Why Did It Take So Long?

     I join with the millions of Americans who grew frustrated with the slow response of Congress and the White House to lowering their flags to half-staff after the murder of four Marines and one Navy Sailor in Chattanooga last week.  Yesterday morning, Congress finally issued the proclamation to lower the flag at the US Capitol; and shortly before noon the White House followed suit -- five long days after the murders of these military servants!
     I find it disturbing that within hours of the Navy Yard killings, the Boston Marathon murders, and the Newtown shooting, all federal flags were ordered to half-staff.  So what was so different about this tragedy?  Why did it take days to issue what should have been an immediate response? Oh, yeah, it meant that our government would be honoring our military with the respect and mourning period that they deserved.  I mean, for crying out loud, the White House ordered the flag lowered for Whitney Houston!  I recognize that she was talented, but what has she given the country in comparison to the service of these honorable men?
      What has happened to the sensitivities and diplomacy of this nation?  The White House, which is supposed to be "The People's House", didn't have any trouble lighting up in the rainbow colors of the LGBT community after their Supreme Court win.  And the Empire State Building, which is symbolic of American individualism and the free-enterprise system, lights up in green to celebrate the end of the Islamic "holy" month of Ramadan -- just hours after the murder of the four Marines by a devout Muslim who texted a friend a verse from the Koran which included, "Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him."
     It would have gone a long way towards telegraphing honor and sympathy for our armed services if the White House had lit up in the red, white, and blue; or the Empire State Building had shown some discretion instead of honoring the faith of a killer.  Did they stop to think how this would offend the families of the dead, or would add to the frustration of the American people ... or didn't either of them care?  Somehow, this fact has been overlooked: that Ramadan is the most violent month of the year in the Islamic world, because Ramadan is the month in which Muslims renew their devotion to Allah, and violent jihad is a supreme act of devotion to Allah.  Does anyone need to be reminded of the massive numbers of heinous beheadings, massacres, and shootings that happened during this "holy" month of this proclaimed religion of peace ... including the deaths of these American soldiers on our home soil???
     But as disappointed and disheartened as I've been over the lack of respect shown these fallen heroes, I have been proud of the response of the American people themselves.  Governors of individual states followed Tennessee's lead and began lowering their flags at half-staff; choosing to act on their own in showing their respect and consideration for the families.  And I have to admit that I teared up a few times as the stories began appearing across the media spectrum of individual citizens showing up outside recruitment centers to exercise their Second Amendment rights and guard our unarmed military personnel.  The military's current policy of unarmed personnel on military installations must change!
     Time and again, across the country, Americans chose to take a stand and protect those who protect us.  Their locations may have varied, but their cause was the same throughout the land:  "Too many people have died for our freedoms.  I’ve never been in the military.  I never served as law enforcement, but I certainly am grateful for those men and women who have died in the past to secure those freedoms" (Virginia).  "To think [that] the people who are supposed to protect and serve us are unable to protect themselves ... So if we, the citizens, who carry legal permits, are able to help protect them, then that's what we're gonna do"  (Georgia).  "We're the third line of defense; the military, then law enforcement and then we, the people.  I just can't sit back and not let these guys be protected... If it takes the citizens to come together to arm these types of establishments, then we'll do so until the government steps up" (New Hampshire).  In Wayne County, Ohio, sheriff's deputies stood watch outside recruitment centers -- on their own time.  "We're here today on our own time. This isn't something that we are being compensated for, [we are here] simply as a way to show support for our service men."
     Let's quit pretending.  Our government does not respect or honor our military.  The VA Hospital debacle (which has still not been remedied) proves that point.  The continued budget cuts and downgrading of our military defense options paints a clear picture.  The ranks of the military are being confounded with policies that promote homosexuality and transgenderism, while denouncing any display or action of Christian faith.  Just like the culture, God is being removed from the military, and the results will be devastating.
     We can all try to put a happy face on this situation, but we know better.  It is up to each of us to bolster and support our military; to show them that there are millions of us who honor their personal sacrifice and their commitment to the Constitution and the ideals of this nation (what little is left of both).  We all know that the call has gone out across the terrorist social media outlets to attack our soldiers and military installations.  We must demand that our elected representatives take this threat seriously and allow our service men and women to protect themselves.  With each act of murder in the homeland, our enemy gets stronger and bolder.  The American people no longer accept delays and excuses from those who are supposed to "faithfully execute" their offices, and with "true faith and allegiance" defend the Constitution ... the enemy has breached the wall and our protectors are under attack.  Be the leaders you were elected to be!

1 Peter 2:19     "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly."  


May 28, 2015

When God Is Removed From War

     As I scanned the news stories across the Web, one particular headline caught my eye ... "Marine Court-Martialed For Refusing To Remove Bible Verse".  The absurdity of that statement made it obligatory that I click on the article.  And just as I suspected, the animosity against Christians in the military is growing out of all proportions to the alleged harm it is causing.
     Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling is accused of displaying a verse of Scripture on her computer -- written on a scrap of paper -- that the military has determined “could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.”   The verse?  Isaiah 54:17:   “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”  When Lance Corporal Sterling refused to remove the verse, she was found guilty of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer.  After representing herself at trial, the Christian Marine was ultimately given a bad conduct discharge and a reduction in rank from lance corporal to private.  
     Both lower court and the appellate court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to her case because displaying a Bible verse does not constitute religious exercise.  The Liberty Institute and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, also a law professor at Georgetown University, are now representing Sterling.
     First, let me say that this is not shocking to me in light of the fact that both God and our Constitution no longer merit any respect or consideration in how we run our national institutions.  This is apparent by the U.S. military policies that are being accelerated to allow the recruitment of as many illegal aliens as possible -- young men and women who have no emotional ties to America and no fundamental understanding of how our constitutional republic is supposed to function -- or the history of how faith in God played a huge part in the success of the military victories that established this nation.
     But Lance Corporal Sterling obviously knows the connection between God and military victories. The words she taped to her computer screen are part of a longer verse in Isaiah 54 that reads, No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.

     I'd like to think that LCpl Sterling knows that she is upholding a long tradition of warriors who know the name of Jehovah Nissi ... The Lord Is My Banner.  I'd like to think that she knows that this is the name of God that Moses disclosed to Joshua before he went into battle against the Amalekites.  As long as Moses raised the staff (banner) of God, Joshua and the Israelite army were assured victory.  Perhaps LCpl Sterling understands that this battle was all about God.  Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Hur, and the Israelite armies were simply vessels God used, but the battle itself was orchestrated by God. Moses knew this and wanted to make certain the Israelites knew it and remembered it. Nothing that he or they did in the physical realm brought about victory. God’s presence and power took them into the battle and assured the victory when the battle was done.
     So what do the Marines and the Military Establishment find so darn offensive about Sterling believing that to be victorious in the military battles she will face, she cannot fight them in her own strength, but needs the Lord to go before her, just as He did with Joshua?  How is knowing that she needs the Lord in order to assure victory "contrary to good order and discipline"?  Or how can this understanding be seen as "divisive and contentious", which the Marines maintain?  As her Liberty Institute lawyer pointed out, “Our Marines are trained to deal with some of the most hostile people on the planet. I don’t think they are afraid of tiny words on a tiny piece of paper.”
     For now, Sterling's name has been tarnished with the bad conduct discharge, and she is currently out of a job.  But perhaps the Lord has a bigger purpose for her.  Perhaps He chose this battle for her in order to show that He will go before her and win the battle; that she is His human instrument, just as Joshua and his men were.
     I pray that the Lance Corporal will stand strong behind the banner of the Lord, and remain above the demands and accusations; being free from the crushing effects of this unjust sentence.  In the end, I hope she believes that she will be vindicated and triumph over her opposition.  The standing of every person of faith serving in the Armed Forces depends on it.  Without this victory in the Lord, God help our military and the defense of this nation.

Isaiah 50:8    "He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!"

May 27, 2015

The War At Home

     The title of today's post is the motto of an organization whose goal is to end the suicides of our returning military veterans.  On Memorial Day, the nation honored those who died in military service to their country.  We focused on those who died as a result of combat in foreign lands, and we mourned all the loss of life on the battlefields of our nation's history.
     But there is a battle here at home that is claiming an alarming number of veteran's lives, and it's time we, the American people, go to war against it.  Every single day 22 veterans commit suicide here in our homeland.  Let me repeat that ... every single day 22 veterans commit suicide here at home.  Mission22, a website committed to bringing attention to this horrific statistic puts that number in perspective for us ...  "That’s two starting football squads a day. A commercial airliner every three weeks.  A 9/11 every four-and-a-half months. To put this into scale, 14 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in approximately 6,000 U.S. combat deaths.  In that same period of time, [for] the next 14 years, an estimated 112,000 military men and women will die by suicide. Which means that, in some twisted way, coming home from war is more dangerous than leaving to fight in one."
     We've all heard of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), both major contributing factors to the suicide rates among veterans.  And you will notice the word that is common to both conditions ... TRAUMA.  Sometimes I think that we dismiss the significance of this word and what it means in conjunction with the service of our military.
     The word "trauma" is defined as shock, upheaval, distress, stress, strain, pain, anguish, suffering, upset, agony, misery, sorrow, grief, heartache, heartbreak, torture; ordeal, trial, tribulation, trouble, worry, anxiety; nightmare, hell, hellishness; war-weariness.  After 14 years of non-stop war, any (or all) of these emotions are the daily companions of our returning veterans.  The problem is that they are invisible scars, and family members are often unaware of the depth and toll that war has taken on their loved one; and they are in the dark as to how to help.
     Also, it is a deplorable fact that the Veteran's Hospitals, the Pentagon, and Congress, itself, has not seen to the physical and psychological needs of our returning vets.  At a Congressional hearing last year, then commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Admiral William McRaven described just how important it is that we win this battle for the lives of our veterans:  "There is a lot of angst. There's a lot of pressure out there. My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat. Hard combat; and anybody that has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It's that simple... The welfare of these brave service members and their families is critical to our command’s readiness and our ability to accomplish the mission. It is also a moral imperative...  It is about the readiness of my force," he said. "At the end of the day, we'll find the right weapon...But I'll tell you, if we don't have a force that's resilient, that is healthy, that can do the job, none of that equipment is going to matter."
     While I appreciate Admiral McRaven's perspective and the need for a prepared military force to wage war, it is imperative that the American people now find some way to repay the sacrifice that our veterans's and their families have made for us by making sure that the hopelessness that leads to suicide is eliminated from the veteran experience.
     How do we win this war on the home front?  I admit that I'm at a loss; but perhaps we can start by admitting it; talking about it so the numbers don't stay in the shadow.  Then demand from our elected officials that they do more than hand out medicine bottles full of anti-depressants and pills that numb the senses.  We need to listen to our vets, provide them with outlets for expressing their torment, and remove the stigma of asking for help.
     I applaud and promote organizations that encourage the civilian public to partner with veterans who are helping veterans.  Organizations such as Stop Soldier Suicide and Real Warriors are just two of the groups attempting to make a difference.  And now it is time the American public does its share of carrying the burden, by partnering with these groups and volunteering or donating money.  There have been far too many of our veterans who survived the horrors of war, only to come home to face an enemy they couldn't defeat.  Let's show them that we support them and care about them, and above else, that they aren't alone in this battle.  They gave so much so we could live our lives well; let's do all we can to give them back their lives.

2 Corinthians 1:8   "For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself." 


May 5, 2015

Mending Broken Bonds

     I had the opportunity last week to serve as a volunteer at the Second Annual Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit and Auction.  That's a long name for an event whose purpose was to raise funds to serve those who serve us.  Whenever I have been involved with events such as this -- those which are committed to a worthy cause -- there is always a fair amount of drama and egos.  This one was no different.
     But all the hard work and long hours culminated in a dinner and auction that re-focused everyone back on the reason we were all there.  Yes, the weekend was in memory and honor of Chris Kyle (along with Chad Littlefield), but it was the veterans who were in attendance, and who spoke that night, who now resonate in my thoughts and my prayers.  They have given me a new perspective on the relationship between our military and the citizens of this country.
    As the audience listened to the struggles that these men and their wives and families have endured, I began to see a pattern that I was aware of, but had never fully comprehended.  The veterans spoke of their physical scars and injuries, and it was apparent that the struggle to regain some kind of normalcy has been long and tough.  And we're all aware that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Disorder) have greatly affected the lives of our soldiers.
     One veteran was there on behalf of 22Kill.com, a campaign sponsored by the  organization HHC (Honor Courage Commitment, Inc), which was founded by a Marine veteran who wanted to make a difference in the lives of returning vets. With the astounding statistic that an average of 22 veterans per day are committing suicide, HHC and 22Kill are committed to changing the negative stereotypes of veterans, and to 1) honor those who serve(d); 2) raise veteran suicide awareness; 3) recruit veteran advocates, aka "Battle Buddies"; 4) educate the public on current veteran topics; and 5) to empower veterans through HHC, Inc. and their programs.
     But with all the emotion and the enthusiasm by the audience to honor and help our returning veterans, I became aware of a gulf, or chasm, between them and us, the average American citizen.  The veterans' speeches just restated a paradigm that I already knew existed.  As they told their stories, it was obvious that they had problems relating to anyone other than their "brotherhood" of fellow veterans.  That is understandable ... no one but a person who has faced combat alongside them could ever fully relate to the aftermath of severe injuries and/or PTSD.
     Yet that does not negate the sincere desire by the average American citizen to express the respect, honor and high regard that we maintain for the country's veterans.  But there always seems to be a disconnect between what we are trying to communicate and how they receive it.  To be honest, more than one has told me that they don't really "need" us to thank them for their service, or view them as heroes.  I perceive that what we think doesn't really matter to them.  We are on different sides of a huge abyss and the separation is too wide.  So, why is there such a divide and such distance between today's veterans and citizens?  Why does this phenomenon seem to have been less during other wars our country has endured?
     As I try to make sense of what I instinctively know is true, a couple of facts boil to the surface.  First of all, our collective memory, as a nation, spans WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Afghanistan/Iraq wars.  As far as the American psyche is concerned, those wars lasted for the following durations:  WW II - 6 years (1939-1945); the Korean War - 3 years (1950-1953); the Vietnam war - 9 years for the direct war (1964-1973); and the Middle East wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - nearly 14 years (2001-present).
     As you can see, our military has been at continuous war for nearly 14 years!  And who is to say how many more years they will be in Iraq and Afghanistan, or what other "hot spot" will require their presence?  Multiple deployments have left our troops constantly on the battlefield.  Unlike WWII, Korea, or even Vietnam (with all its negative connotations), our troops have been gone so long and divorced from their civilian lives and interaction with the homeland for such a long stretch of time, that our common experiences as Americans is disappearing.  It has become an almost "us" versus "them" kind of relationship.
     The sad thing is that, while these veterans are having a difficult time transitioning back into their families and society, we citizens are struggling with how to break through the divide that separates us.  We truly respect their service, and like the veterans from past wars, we want to honor what they have sacrificed.  Yet it has also become apparent that, for many, their service was not done on behalf of "God and Country", as I idealistically hope for; but for the "brother" next to them -- for the ones with whom they identify the most.
     Because of the duration of this ongoing global war, the original reason has become blurred (if not nonexistent); and our veterans identify with the brotherhood of soldiers more than the American population.  The longer we remain at war, the wider the division and the disconnect will become.  In the end, our cohesiveness as a nation will suffer, and the struggle to re-establish an alliance of solidarity will be more difficult to achieve.  We must reconnect the bonds that have been broken!  We can help each other heal the scars of war and reclaim our shared identity as proud Americans.

1 Peter 3:8    "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."


April 9, 2015

Soldier Suicides, Scientology & Shifty Politics

     While taking a little day journey earlier this week, I was struck by this billboard along Interstate 35 in the heart of Texas.  Like most alert Americans, I am aware of the massive amounts of prescription drugs that our returning vets are receiving via the Military hospitals and the VA.  Through my service to wounded soldiers at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, I had heard multiple comments about the amount of drugs and the length of time they were prescribed for the patients.  In fact, more than one soldier told me he just stopped taking them, because "they messed with my head too much."
      So, besides being tuned in to the potential problem with over-medication of our soldiers, I also wondered exactly who the organization was that was sponsoring these billboards.  Apparently they are appearing around the country near major military installations, such as Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Caroline, among others.  So I decided to do a little research.  At the bottom of the billboard, it says that the ad campaign is "sponsored by the Citizens Commission On Human Rights."  The website for CCHR says that they are a "Watchdog investigating and exposing psychiatric human rights violations."
     Digging a little deeper, it didn't take long to uncover the alleged identity of this group.  According to an article at Examiner.com, CCHR "has been described by critics as a Scientology front group that campaigns against Big Pharma, psychiatry and psychiatrists."  If you remember a few years back, the most famous Scientologist, Tom Cruise, got into a heated debate with actress Brooke Shields over medication she took to help alleviate symptoms caused by her postpartum depression.
     Scientology insists that mental illness is not a medical disease and that the use of psychiatric medication is a destructive and fraudulent practice. The organization goes so far as to link psychiatry or psychiatrists to school shootings, eugenics, and terrorism.
     I admit that I have some conflict over the various positions taken on this subject.  I am not a fan of the cult-like religion called Scientology.  Yet, I cannot dispute CCHR's claims that "in early 2013, the official website of the United States Department of Defense announced the startling statistic that the number of military suicides in 2012 had far exceeded the total of those killed in battle—an average of nearly one a day. A month later came an even more sobering statistic from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: veteran suicide was running at 22 a day—about 8000 a year."  And then there are those confirming statements I heard directly from soldiers saying that "too many drugs are being prescribed."
     And perhaps the most disturbing fallout of how we are treating returning veterans with PTSD, is evidenced in this 2014 story from International Business Times:  When former U.S. Army Specialist Kyle Wesolowski returned from Iraq in December 2010 following a brutal yearlong deployment, psychiatrists at the Fort Hood army post in Texas gave him “a cocktail of seven different drugs” for his anxiety, depression and other war-related mental health issues.
     More than three years later, Wesolowski has come to an uncomfortable conclusion about the unintended consequences of ingesting those medications: They made him homicidal.
     While desperately struggling to taper off the drugs without an exit strategy from his military doctors, Wesolowski contemplated murdering a young woman he met in a bar near the base. “When she talked to me, I put on a fake smile and tried to be nice,” Wesolowski said, though in reality he recalled hating her for being happy and carefree, and now says that due to the side effects of his drug cocktail, he felt violent urges. “I began to fantasize about killing her,” he said.
     At this point, I think it is highly appropriate to ask, What are we doing to our soldiers?!?  Why are so many psychotropic drugs being prescribed, often in conjunction with other drugs that produce violent side effects?  Is it possible that, as some experts in the field suggest, "Congress is lobbied heavily by Big Pharma" ... and "Soon after the start of the second Gulf War, we saw a sea change in the prescribing of these [psychotropic] drugs to our troops. This cannot be accounted for by anything other than military decisions at the very top that were certainly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which markets from the top down, then the drugs flow to millions."
     Certainly, this seems to be verified by an Austin American-Stateman report which found that drug purchases by the Department of Defense ballooned by more than 123 percent, from $3 billion in 2002 to $6.8 billion in 2011, which outpaced by nearly double the overall increase in reported pharmaceutical sales in the U.S!
     While I was astounded (but not surprised) by the amount of drugs being prescribed, I was floored to read another article that reported the Pentagon funded nearly 2/3 of a million dollars to a Scientology De-Tox program to help soldiers get off the drugs.  But at what cost?  The program claims to flush out the accumulations of toxins stored in body fat by flushing out the toxins and excreting them from the skin using high/toxic doses of Niacin and other vitamin regimes.  Plus it is my understanding that soldiers enrolled in this program are subjected to Scientology's famous "auditing sessions", which attempt to tear people down in order to build them back up.  Not only am I leery of this cultic organization on religious grounds, but is that really a safe mechanism for soldiers who are dealing with PTSD?
     So, I'm left feeling that our soldiers are being victimized from all sides!  Who is really looking after their welfare and that of their families?  It simply appears as if the DOD, Military Hospitals, Big Pharma and Scientology all have their own agendas, and the suffering soldier's needs are at the bottom of the list.  As a government and a nation, we should be ashamed!  Who will stand up for them?  Please pray that this insanity will stop!

Psalms 34:18   "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."