Tag Archives: soldiers

1 in 5 Come Home Mentally Ill

18 Apr



“A war is like when it rains in New York and everybody crowds into doorways, ya know? And they all get chummy together. Perfect strangers. The only difference, of course, is in a war it’s also raining on the other side of the street and the people who are chummy over there are trying to kill the people who are over here who are chums.”–Hawkeye Pierce, “M*A*S*H”

When it comes to electronics, I’m pretty lame. I mean, I just got an iPod in March (thanks Sarah!) So it should come as no surprise that I own a Playstation 1 with a variety of outdated games including Spyro the Dragon, Tomb Raider (1 & 2), and Crash Bandicoot Racing. The last one is my favorite because cartoon characters drive little cars around and lob bombs, rockets, and other weapons at one another. I get a certain feeling of satisfaction running one of my opponents off the road with one of the weapons in my arsenal. I feel even better when I win. However, if it wasn’t a game (and didn’t involve cartoon characters), destroying others wouldn’t be so…fun. It would be devastating, heartbreaking, and just plain mean. But it’s just a game, right?

Sadly, every single stinkin’ day there’s a suicide bomber somewhere blowing up something. There are militants slaughtering the innocent. There are troops out in the desert being shot are by snipers. In reality, war is hell, and people are living it every day. Plus the technology developed to kill is far more sophisticated than my Playstation 1. With a press of a button, a missile can wipe out a village, like the people never existed.

Is it any wonder that one in five soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan now suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder? (Full story) Maybe the sickest “deaths” can’t even be measured in a body count. Perhaps the sickest death isn’t just a dead son or daughter in a body bag, but a man or woman suffering from mental illness. Despite how noble our military is, you can’t go to a place and kill people for six months and be OK. I believe it changes a human because it’s dehumanizing. We were never created to kill. It’s not part of the original design that God had for us. But because we are fallen, we are at war with ourselves, our world, and each other (Rob Bell points this out in Sex God).

Major depression and PTSD can be treated effectively. They can be medicated, get counseling, and go on to lead great lives. I’m not condemning our men and women in uniform to life in an asylum. I am merely saying that the cost of war isn’t just in dollars and death, but in the quality of life that exists for our soldiers once they do come home. I don’t know how I feel about the war in Iraq. I don’t know whether we should have gone in the first place. I don’t know what to do now and if immediate withdraw is the right option. I just don’t know. But I do know that once the troops do come home, we need to support them, love them, and help heal them however we can.

The other thing I know is this–I hate war. Yet I know that war will continue to be part of this present reality, as Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:6-7).

You know what I hate most about war? The fact that no one really wins. In the end our side has casualties and so does their side. And really, when you think about it, you have a 19 year-old American soldier fighting against a 19 year-old Iraqi or whoever. They’re shooting at each other and but they really have no beef with each other…just that the other one is the “enemy” because they’ve been told the other side is the enemy. Given another situation, and if they could communicate well enough, they’d probably go get a beer and pick up girls together. But war makes them enemies and they shoot to kill.

I hate war and I have what it does to the minds of the people who are fight in it.

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