Friday, April 18, 2008

PTSD: Not a judgement from God

The first warrior created by God was the Archangel Michael. Even from the beginning, God knew that freewill would allow angel to turn against angel.

From the beginning of nations, man turned against man and made war. Throughout the Bible warriors fought the battles and dealt with the consequences of them. If you read Judges and Kings, you will see the affects of what we now call PTSD within many of the pages. Ancient Hebrews would have to "cleanse" themselves before returning home after combat. This was a time to cleanse their spirits and minds as well as their bodies.

King David was a warrior as well as a gentle soul and this is clear within his writings and songs.

Then we have Constantine the Great, yet another warrior who conquered territory at the same time he spread Christianity throughout nations.

History has recorded the ravages on the humans who survived wars and will continue to record them until man makes war against man no more. Each civilization had their own way of addressing the hidden wounds. Native American Indians have cleansing rituals and sweat lodges. Each warrior had to deal with reconnecting the body with their mind and spirit.

For many, once they survive all the traumatic events of war, they rise either thanking God for watching over them or believing that God abandoned them. Some blame God for taking their friend's life, while others will blame themselves thinking their friend deserved to live more than they did. They can feel as if they should have done more to save the life of their friend. This is called survivor's guilt. They also blame themselves when innocents are killed, especially children. This is a human condition and not isolated one nation from another. Each participant in the traumas of battle also battle the God of their faith.

While it is not a Christian condition, this is to address the Christian connection between God and the warrior and the wishes of Christ.

Thou shall not kill, reverberates in the minds of the warriors, yet war is not murder and as stated. Wars have been since the beginning of time. Going to war is not murder. God knows what is in the hearts and minds of all people and He judges accordingly. We, as Christians, also have Christ on our side as sinners, since He said that no one sin was any worse than another and all men fall short of leading a sinless life. Yet we look at the life of Christ, His wish for peace and to put swords away but we forget about the Centurion He regarded with compassion.

It was during a time when the Romans were occupying the territories of the Jewish people. Christ lived His entire life knowing how His life would end, yet when a Roman Centurion came to Him to save the life of a servant He loved, Christ responded with compassion according to the man's heart. The Centurion was not a Jew, did not pray to the same God, yet he had faith that Christ could save the life of his beloved servant.
Christ healed the servant.
Matthew 8
5And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
12But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

How can we ever doubt the mercy and compassion of Christ for a warrior after this? This Roman was part of the authority that not only treated God's chosen people with terror, but would be part of the same authority that would nail Him to the cross. In His compassion, Christ's final words were "Forgive them for they know not what they do." How can any of us ever doubt that we are forgiven? Christ also told the people there is no greater act of love than to be willing to lay down your life for your friends and yet that is exactly what the men and women in the military are willing to do. It is not up to them where they go, how long or how far they go.

They are under the authority of the Constitution and are under the service of the powers provided by it. They serve under the President but they do not serve the President. They serve the Constitution and take an oath to protect and defend it. If a President chooses to ignore the consequences of his orders, again it is not the fault of the warrior but the fault of the person in the office.

While we argue over Iraq, the same people also participate in the combat of Afghanistan, yet no one argues over Afghanistan. A warrior acts the same way no matter where they are and are willing to lay down their lives for their friends, suffer wounds of the body and the mind and the spirit and then wage battle within themselves after they survived the horrifying events they were placed into.

God did not take the life of their friend but God did open His arms to take them home. God did not abandon them for judging them guilty of killing, but looked down on them and said this day is not the day He takes them home. We must help all of them to see and understand this.

When the three parts of humanity are addressed and helped to heal, there is a greater depth of healing.

Guilt is not their's because they did not make the choice to wage war, but only decided to serve the nation. As with all humans exposed to trauma, they are not the cause of the trauma but they are wounded by it.

How can humans endure such horrific acts and not be expected to be affected by them? They can't. No one walks away from it untouched or unchanged. The rate of PTSD for any traumatic event is one out of three but the key word is "event" and with soldiers, they are exposed to multiple traumatic events in combat, usually on a daily basis. They are deprived rest and sleep, food and creature comforts the rest of us take for granted. As we go to bed each night, they are usually awake listening to the sounds of the night. While we decide what to wear to go to work today, they are in the same uniform they have been in for days. The things they do to keep alive in battle, is carried back with them and too many cannot break out of them to live as a normal citizen again. Redeployments are the worst for them because they are allowed to return to "normal" life only to be sent back months later. The adrenaline begins to rush through them again and again. As the cycle of traumatic events repeats, the rate of risk for PTSD increases by 50% yet we wonder why there are so many with PTSD.

These are normal humans exposed to abnormal events. War is not part of normal life. Yet things happen to them and around them that they cannot forget or get over. Sometimes it is something that was done to them and other times it was done by them. If they feel they truly are guilty of doing something on purpose, then they need to ask for forgiveness from God for their own sake. Otherwise, guilt will eat away at them. Any human who feels guilty needs to ask for forgiveness so they can get past it and not carry it around with them. On the other hand, carrying around hatred does just as much harm. They need to forgive as well.

How can they do this after what they've been through? With the help of us and their spiritual leader. They need a religious person, no matter if it's a simple friend who understands, an ordained person or a Chaplain. They also need psychological help from a professional who can help them deal with and minimize the damage done within their brain. Often this is a mixture of talk therapy and medications. They need someone outside the clinical world to care about them. If it is their family, then the family needs support. Often it is another warrior who has walked in their boots who can offer the best kind of support provided they have listening skills.

This is going to get so huge that there is a greater growing need for everyone to become involved in the healing of these men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of us. Set aside the action they were involved with and find peace with the fact they did not decide where to go or how long they would be gone. They only decided they wanted to serve.

Understand that God did not abandon them but so far, it looks as if the rest of us did. They are not the first generation abandoned but God willing they will be the last we abandon.

Chaplain Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

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