Friday, January 30, 2009

Open arms and abundant opportunities

Yesterday, the U.S. Army reported the highest level of suicides among its soldiers since it began tracking the rate 28 years ago. In 2008, there were 128 confirmed suicides and an additional 15 suspected suicides in cases under investigation among active-duty soldiers and activated National Guard and reserves.

The Army continues to study this problem to determine why its suicide-prevention programs are not working, and the extent to which post-combat stress may be a contributing factor. Many of the suicides occur after troops return home. Personal stress -- including financial, relationship and substance-abuse problems -- is a major reason for suicides, but deployments to a war zone may play a larger role.

On Tuesday, my wife spoke to a 28-year young Army veteran while at the sidewalk in front of a neighborhood abortion facility where she counsels pregnant women. He had accompanied his sister there who was planning an abortion. While waiting for his sister, he shared war stories about Iraq with my wife and how he is still haunted by the guys he had to, "take down." He said sadly, "I can still see their faces and hear their voices everyday."

He also shared that since being discharged from the Army last year, he has not been able to find employment or obtain psychological counseling from the Veterans Administration for the combat-related emotional scars he carries. There just aren't enough trained counselors to meet the demands of all the veterans seeking help. He plans on returning to military service soon, in default, because no opportunities await him in the civilian world.

My wife thanked him for protecting our country, expressed sorrow about his traumatic experiences in Iraq, and shared that Jesus is the ultimate "Healer" of his pain and memories. He said he was a believer and admitted, "one day I will regret having brought my sister to this place." Their encounter at the sidewalk ended with my wife expressing sorrow about his sister's situation and giving him literature for his sister about abortion alternatives and post-abortion counseling services along with pink and blue rosaries for each of them. She told him that she would keep both of them in her prayers as he quietly walked away.

Dear God, protect all our brave soldiers and sailors who serve our country and heal them of the emotional scars they carry from their traumatic combat experiences. Bring them home safe and sound to a country that welcomes them with open arms and abundant opportunities.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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