What impressed me even more were the wounded warriors I silently observed. Young men and women returning from the Middle East with an array of sundry… well, wounds and scars; those that are visible and those that remain invisible.
A number of them had therapy dogs. As I have read and understand it, these working dogs assist the soldiers who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Even though these soldiers may appear to be whole, they are wholly wounded. Wounded in their Spirit and that is a dangerous and sad place to be wounded.
This war-time syndrome at one time was call “being shell-shocked”. I recall World War II Veterans who were friends of my parents who were “different” due to what they witnessed during war time endeavors. Some were alcoholics trying to self-medicate themselves into oblivion. Others were, well, what my Grandmother called “touched”. Not dangerous, by any means but unpredictable and unable to be engaged in full time employment.
I recall one such man who sat on the bank on the north side of Wooster. He would watch the cars go by. He would often decide to enter the traffic to attempt to “control” it or he would begin sweeping the high traffic roadway. Sometimes a family member would come and gently take his arm and lead him back home. Sometimes it was law enforcement personnel who would pull over and lead him home. He wasn't a menace, only an inconvenient interruption if you were in a hurry to get from one end of town to another.
I cannot tell you the number of young warriors I saw with wounds to their extremities. Braces on maimed legs; missing legs; in wheelchairs, walking with the aid of crutches, or walking with the aid of a prosthetic leg or in some cases legs. One can only imagine how these injuries were received. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are the most likely the culprit.
Most of these soldiers were mid-thirties or younger. These are ones who prior to this point in their lives believed themselves to be invincible. They are now re-thinking their world, their lives and their futures.
Husband was going through an annual interview with a counselor when I saw him. He was young, under the age of thirty most likely. His right leg was maimed and in a brace. It was scarred and appeared that all the calf muscle was missing. He walked with a limp, not pronounced, but it was discernible. His left leg’s calf was covered with an ornate tattoo.
How does one say, “Thank you for your service” in the face of such sacrifice? When we were leaving I approached him and did say just that. I maintained eye contact and added “and for your sacrifice.” He looked at me with his penetrating brown eyes and nodded an acknowledgement. My heart was wrenched as I walked the corridor to the elevator.
What a ministry potential! We just might need to re-think church and reach out to this group. Perhaps we need to consider easier access to our buildings and restrooms. Maybe we need to offer evening support groups. Maybe we just need to take the time to sit and listen to these young soldiers. They are most likely angry at God for allowing this to happen to them. And they are mourning. They are mourning the loss of a limb and the loss of innocence. We, the disciples, the followers of Christ need to come along side and help to lead them home. We don’t have to have all the answers. We only need to have time, compassion and the ability to pray with and for them.
I love the way the 23 Psalm reads in The Message:
23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
4 Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
5 You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
6 Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.
Especially verse 6. We need to help shepherd them and lead them back home.