Veterans’ Day 2009

Though I elected to keep this blog, posting has dropped drastically due to my very busy schedule. But it is Veterans’ Day, and this year finds me back in uniform after a 15 year break in service. I’m a chaplain in the Texas Army National Guard, serving with 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Ellington Field. I’ve had two drills with them now, and am getting to know the soldiers and to hear the stories of their deployments to Bosnia and Iraq. It’s a different Guard than I served in last time around–these are experienced warriors who know the pain of separation and the gritty reality of combat.

We went to San Antonio on Friday for a three day weekend of weapons qualification (for everyone but me). We were all in a somber mood in the wake of the murders at Fort Hood the previous day. Soldiers know the risks they assume when they put on the uniform–but this wasn’t one. We expect to face bullets on foreign soil, not at home; we expect to face that danger before an enemy, not a fellow soldier. We expect those to crack those who are young, immature, inexperienced, under stress–not a major. Not someone trained to heal. Not someone trained to help us. And so our emotions are many: grief, anger, confusion, and fear.

But I do not fear the Muslims who serve. This guy does not represent them. His reference to Islam and the Koran were excuses, not reasons; manipulated facts, not motivations. I am afraid, in fact, for Muslims, who may be scapegoated, feared, accused, suspected, despite a personal history of commitment and valor. The wrong response to this tragedy would be to single out members of a particular religion–the right response is to take seriously the words and actions of soldiers who, for whatever reason, are on the edge.

Tomorrow, I’m going to a dinner sponsored by Military Ministry (a branch of Campus Crusade) focusing on how churches can reach out to and heal veterans suffering from PTSD; on Friday, I’m going to a training they are offering at Encourager Church on the Katy Freeway in Houston (it will be repeated on Saturday at Lakewood–for details, see http://ptsdusa.org). I don’t think this guy suffered from PTSD–he hadn’t ever been deployed; he had just finished his psychiatric residency. He did have the experience of soaking in a lot of pain, and that can have its own impact; he was confused, it appears, about the conflict he perceived between his faith and his duty as an officer. He was afraid, it appears. More will come out in the trial to come. I’m glad he lived to be able to tell. But the tragedy is that this healer left only more pain in his wake. Pain that we, the living, have to heal. Pain that many veterans endure in silence.

Pray for us all.

One thought on “Veterans’ Day 2009

  1. My father was also a veteran, and I always try to make it to Memorial and Veterans’ Day services.

    Prayers for you, Bill, and thank you for your service to the troops.

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