The following is an excerpt from my article “Welcome Home, Soldier” which appears in the November issue of St. Anthony Messenger.
What are some of our warriors’ spiritual struggles? Many struggle with the why? question: Why did I survive and my friend didn’t? I recall the anguish of a man who did not go on a mission because of being sick. His friend took his place and died in an IED explosion, sitting in the exact spot where the young soldier would have been. He is haunted by the thought It should have been me in that seat.
Some soldiers who ask why are trying to make sense out of senseless horror. Maybe they saw children run over trying to avoid a landmine. Maybe they watched a friend by burned alive in a flaming vehicle. “How can a loving God permit such things?” one soldier asked.
Then there are those soldiers who come back from combat no longer believing in God. As one man told me, “After what I’ve seen and done, the idea of God just doesn’t work anymore”.
Not every soldier lost his or her faith on the battlefield. Some found it. Others drew upon that faith to get them through both war and its aftermath. One man whom I deeply respect summed it up for me as I expressed concern about how he was doing. He looked at me, patted my shoulder, and said “As long as I have my Bible and a good friend I can talk to, I’ll be OK.”
Such straightforward clarity, given what this man has been through is truly humbling for someone such as I who spends a lot of time arguing with and questioning God.
So I encourage everyone to reach out to these wounded warriors. help them feel welcome. Help them feel there is a place for them in your spiritual community. If they indicate a desire to talk, take the time to listen to their spiritual struggles. Just listen; don’t try to fix. This will be a far more meaningful way of saying “Thank you for your service.”
Further reading: If you would like to receive a copy of the full article, send me your address at RichP45198@aol.com. Put “Article” in the subject line.