The returning soldier often, though not always, feels a sense of estrangement, of being different, even when welcomed home. Medals and speeches about duty, honor, country, courage, and heroism all ring hollow and feel disconnected from the images of death, both of friends and foes, that are the reality of combat. No justification ultimately satisfies the soldier who has killed or witnessed killing.
Last year, while I was working as a congressional fellow in the U.S. Senate, advising on veterans and military mental health matters, I spoke with a senior Army officer who had recently returned from a month-long visit to Iraq. His convoy had been attacked and some enemy combatants had been killed. It was his first brush with combat, and he said it was changing him, though he could not articulate how.
As Christians greet and welcome home the men and women who have served in Iraq, we should not be naive about what they have seen and done. Many are committed Christians who will spend the remainder of their lives trying to make sense of the events they have endured. It is work they must labor on with God. Jingoistic, rehearsed responses will only put would-be comforters in the same league as Job's friends. Listen to their stories, and let your life be challenged and changed as God's way is revealed in their lives.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Story in Christianity Today Magazine