Archives For June 2010

When Warriors Weep

Tim Jackson —  June 8, 2010 — 6 Comments

Strength doesn’t mean you don’t hurt. Training doesn’t mean that you won’t weep. Even for a Navy SEAL.

When I think of the toughest of the toughest, I think of a Navy SEAL. Only the strongest men survive the grueling training that hones them into the best the Navy has to offer. The attrition rate in the SEAL program is 70-80%. Nothing phases these guys. They can dish it out, they can take it, and they’re fine.

Right?

But in a TIME magazine article in November 30, 2009, Mark Waddell, a decorated Navy SEAL commander, chronicles the other side of the battlefront . . .  his internal battle back at home with PTSD. In spite of the training that as Waddell put it, “inoculates you against trauma,” it doesn’t eliminate the stress that gets packed away. He goes on to say in the article, “The first time you see someone dead, it’s a shock. By the 10th time, you’re walking over dead bodies and making sick jokes about what they had for breakfast. But all that stress accumulates.” And it comes home with even the best of professional soldiers.

What Waddell’s family began to notice was his explosive reactions to normal household stressors, increasing irritability with kids, and sometimes sleeping with a gun under his pillow. Changing the sheets on the bed became routine for his wife, Marshele, because of his night sweats and violent dreams. After one incident when Mark awoke from a nightmare with his hands wrapped around her neck and her face turning blue, Marshele developed an emergency escape plan for her and her children because of their fear of Mark’s escalating violence. It was 6 months after he had the daunting task of sorting through the remains of 8 of his comrades–men whom he’d personally trained, led, and fought beside–after the worst disaster in SEAL history, the downing of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan that took their lives and 8 Army aviators on a rescue mission, that Mark finally admitted to himself and Marshele that he needed help.

The request for help when a man is down is not an act of cowardice. Rather, it’s an act of courage. Steeling yourself against the trauma of war is necessary when the bullets are whizzing by your head. But after the long journey home, it’s time to unpack the residue of war–the pain, guilt, grief, and anguish.

While talking about it may be discouraged in the military, talking about it, unburdening your heart is necessary for healing of wounds to occur. Just like a deep physical wound needs to drain–and that’s yucky–talking about the invisible pain that you carry is like draining your wounded heart so that deep healing can take place.

In Matthew 9:12, Jesus reminded his followers that “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Proverbs 13:12 reminds us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And for warriors coming home from the battlefront with the images of war embedded in their hearts like emotional shrapnel, they need a safe place to begin to heal from these wounds of heart, mind, and soul.

Marshele Waddell has some vital words of experience to share with wounded warriors and their families: “you need an environment where the warrior can be vulnerable.” Check out Mark and Marshele Waddell’s website, Hope For The Home Front, for more of their story of living with and working through PTSD.

The War Within: Finding Hope for PTSD is a documentary DVD that we have produced to assist you in beginning your journey through the war with PTSD. Watch it free on line at the Day of Discovery website or order your own DVD. Check out our discussions with two vets who share how PTSD has become The Mark of War that they bear and how the resources of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has given them hope in working through and experiencing healing from their internal wounds of war.

Love that shows

Allison Stevens —  June 6, 2010 — 1 Comment

I am so grateful for the men and women in the hospital who have tended to my husband during this time of recovery from a fall off a ladder.

Nurses, surgeons, and nurses aids are just a few of the people I’ve come across in the last week who over and over again help those who are sick or hurting. When I walk into my husband’s hospital room, nurses are recording his blood pressure or taking his temperature; doctors are discussing pain management options, and reassuring him that they are there to help him. The nurses aids ask him if he needs anything at least once an hour. They come and make sure he’s not too warm, not too cold, if he’s in pain, if he would like to get into the wheelchair for a jaunt around the orthopedic floor. All the medical professionals we’ve come in contact with have made it clear that they are there for him and they haven’t once made him or me feel like we’re a burden. I realize they are paid to do this job, but it doesn’t take you long to see that you must be gifted in this area to be able to maintain such a genuinely caring and friendly atmosphere. I don’t think you can fake that kind of generosity for that long.

Our church family, too, has been there for us. Friends call and tell us they’re praying for us; they bring us meals, they sit with me in the waiting rooms, they pick up my children and take them to dinner; they pray with us.

This kind of love, you can’t fake either. They’re not getting paid to love us. They won’t get demoted if they don’t love us. So why do they show us so much affection and care? Because of Jesus. They’ve had a life-changing encounter with the Son of God; evidenced by how they care about us. They’ve been filled with the love of Jesus and it shows. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13.) My friends have given of themselves, sacrificed for us, and they’ve shown me what it really means to love in a tangible way.

I hope you have friends like this in your life who will help you when life gets complicated or dreary or sad or lonely. We all need friends. Don’t try and go it alone. It just doesn’t work that way. We are a body and we need each other!

“. . . you always think, ‘Well, it’s easier the second day [after your first experience in combat], the combat veterans are the ones that really know what they’re doing.’ That’s true. But they also know what’s going to happen . . . there’s lots of ways to get Post-Traumatic Stress. We got it in war trauma. Some people get it other ways. But our Post-Traumatic Stress was related to combat. And the next days after [being in-country] you’re afraid to get close to people, but you’ve got to get close if you’re gonna operate as a team. So then you risk again to get close to someone who then turns, by the enemy, into a pile of goo. And the pain of that is really incredible . . . and there’s no place to put that pain.

If you rage it–which in combat is effective–it’s like the kick-off, the next play when you take out a guy on the other team. You feel better for a short time, but that’s no long-term solution because the rage is inside and we brought it home. We brought the war home and if there was one thing I wanted to do . . .  I wanted to leave the war with the war. I didn’t want to bring it home. You know, I brought it home and I destroyed relationships. The very relationships I fought to secure. The very relationships I thought and prayed about, ‘if I could go home and be, you  know, a husband, if I could sit and not have someone trying to blow me away, if I had a hot meal and six hours of sleep, and a woman that loved me, I’d never want for anything.’ And I had that, and I couldn’t put down the war. It ate me alive and I used the things of war that went through my life to destroy the one relationship that I cared most about–my wife–and I destroyed her heart and broke her dreams.” (interview with Phil Downer, USMC)

Phil’s words echo the heart cry of many combat veterans no matter what the war. His war was Vietnam. But it’s the same for our current soldiers coming home from combat around the globe. And it was the same for the vets who came home from WWII and Korea.

My wife’s grandfather was drafted in WWII at the age of 36 with 3 daughters at home. He survived some of the most brutal combat of the European theater–‘The Bulge’ in the Ardennes of Belgium. He left with coal black hair and when he returned 3 years later, his hair was pure white. And more of him was changed than his hair color. He never spoke a word about what he saw and did during the war. But it was clear that what he brought home from war made it extremely uncomfortable for him to get close to anyone. When I first met him some 37 years ago, I just thought he was a strange man, kind of odd. I had no clue what he’d been through or the invisible wounds of war that he carried.

For more on PTSD and unpacking the pain of war, check out my series of conversations with Phil Downer (USMC) and Lt. Col. Dan Nigolian (USAF-Ret.). Please feel free to share your comments, your questions, or even a little of your own stories. Vets find that other vets are often the most helpful in beginning the process of unpacking the pain of war that unexpectedly came home in their duffle along with the rest of their gear.