Common Ground on a Big Stage
Posted in: Combat Trauma/PTSD, Deployment
Divinely orchestrated encounter at chapel unites two warriors in enduring friendship
I have often wondered how God might use me—a retired Army veteran, full-time staff member with Cru Military, and supporter of our military—to reach out to veterans, especially wounded warriors. They are an elite group of unsung military heroes suffering the seen and unseen wounds of war.
My wife, Sharon, and I attend chapel at a nearby military base. One Sunday the chapel hosted a Christian drama team performing several faith-based skits. Each of the short dramas ended abruptly, leaving the conclusions open to the individual interpretations and imaginations of the congregation.
One of the skits addressed suicide, zeroing in on a man contemplating jumping off the 12th story of a building. A would-be rescuer comes out to the man on the ledge, trying to help him see the value of his life. End of story. So was it a successful rescue, or…?
At that skit’s conclusion, a soldier at the service stood up with tears in his eyes, quickly exiting. Sharon turned to me and whispered, “Keith, did you see that?” There was a pregnant pause before elbowing me, “I think somebody needs to go check on him!”
Sir! Are you okay?
The soldier was already across the street, heading back to his quarters alone. I ran up to him, “Sir! Are you okay? I sensed that skit really connected with you in an unusual way.” He replied, “Yes. I’m a suicide survivor. I tried to take my life earlier this year, but a chaplain saved my life.” He said he was a wounded warrior, an Army reservist undergoing several months of therapy and medical evaluations at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) before being discharged. Sensing he felt isolated and lonely, geographically separated from his family in the Midwest, I asked if we could get together later that week. He agreed. Since then we have been meeting together weekly at a local Starbucks.
Though not a trained counselor or therapist, I’m a pretty good listener. So I mostly listen while he tells his story— military hardship, deployment struggles, blended family challenges, dealing with depression and health issues, etc. It’s a steep hill he’s climbing—but not impossible. Even under the direst of circumstances, we have the assurance of God’s ability, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
My times with him are special. But it’s not just me ministering to him—we minister to each other. His willingness to self-disclose has allowed me to share my own past heartaches and struggles. While our military experiences differ, our life stories of challenges and disappointments intersect at various points. We share common ground on a larger stage—knowing Christ and relying on His promises—giving us the proper lens of hope for what lies ahead.
With each passing week our friendship grows as we share from our hearts and pray together. After meeting several times, this veteran commented that our get-togethers are helping facilitate his healing. Laughter and joy have entered our conversations as he relates how the Lord is also restoring relationships in his extended family. I marvel at what God is doing in his life, and give thanks to the Lord for this soldier’s journey of restoration.
God divinely orchestrated that unexpected encounter with a wounded warrior one Sunday morning on a chapel sidewalk. From meeting regularly for coffee came an enduring friendship, ultimately uniting one warrior’s heart to another’s.
By Colonel Keith Morgan, United States Army, Retired, Cru Military StaffOriginally published in the September 2013 issue of Command magazine, Vol. 62 No. 3, by Officers’ Christian Fellowship of the United States of America, Englewood, Colorado. Reprinted/used with permission. For subscription information, call 1-800-761-1984 or visit www.ocfusa.org.