On ‘the road home from war,’ church support vital, soldiers say
“You will never know how much a message or letter does for the Christian who is in the land of the enemy – physically and spiritually,” said Jay Spriggs, a Marine gunnery sergeant who worshiped with the Camp Fallujah church during a recent tour in Iraq.
“I headed home after my deployment satisfied that it was all worth it,” Spriggs said. “I was able to retain sanity and focus because of the response from tbrethren around the world.”
As the war in Iraq reaches the 4 1/2-half year mark, church members also need to pray about ways they can serve soldiers when they come home, several members in the military told The Christian Chronicle.
“The road home from war can be as long and challenging as the waritself,” George Wallace, a chaplain stationed in Iraq, said in a briefe-mail message. Wallace, a church member, was preparing a memorialservice for a soldier killed by an improvised explosive device.
Even when soldiers return home safely, “people just need to understandthat life after the parade can be very difficult,” Wallace said.
Some soldiers have lost arms or legs in roadside bomb explosions.Others have suffered mild brain injuries. Up to 30 percent of troopsdeployed to Iraq suffer from depression, anxiety or post-traumaticstress disorder, according to studies conducted by the Army.
Church members need to educate themselves about post-traumatic stress and reintegration stress, Wallace said.
They also should be ready to encourage their military members to seekprofessional counseling — and not be ashamed of needing it, saidAugustine Odii-Abia, another Church of Christ chaplain in Iraq.
“The old military culture is that you are a weakling for seeking help,” Odii-Abia said. “To an extent, this still exists today.”
Churches can help returning soldiers by providing biblically basedcounseling for stress, depression and related issues, said James Baker,an Army chief warrant officer stationed in Iraq. Churches may alsoprovide marriage and family counseling for military members.
At the same time, church members should not “assume that servicemembers returning from the war zone are ‘damaged goods’ — thepsychotic, violent victims often portrayed in movies and the media,”Baker said. “For some, the time at war only serves to strengthen ourfaith and our commitment to our families and Christ.”
Baker’s home congregation, the Lakeview church in Tacoma, Wash., has amilitary care group, which hosts monthly fellowship meals anddevotionals. Active duty soldiers, reservists and retired veteransparticipate.
“Knowing there’s a support group for my wife and children whiledeployed, and knowing there are loving Christian family members prayingfor me and anticipating my return, makes my job here in Iraq — and myimpending transition back to ‘the real world’ — much easier,” Bakersaid.