I’ve been working with veterans for twenty years or so, the last eleven as an outpost leader with Point Man Ministries.  Along the way, my group and I have learned to see and to hear the red flag indicators as we listen to the stories from our returning troops.  Some of the classic cries for help come in the form of agitation, anger, numbing (often with the help of drugs and alcohol), insomnia, depression, isolation, flashbacks and nightmares, startle responses when “triggered” by a combat-related sight, sound, or smell, and a host of other symptoms.  In other words, we know from our own experience and from these stories that war (and especially combat) leaves a lasting mark on the mind, the emotions, and the  soul.  A starting point in meeting these needs is to offer a safe place where the vets can learn to trust again.  Then we encourage them to tell us what happened to them and what they felt when it occurred.  There can be no pressure on the soldier to get him or her to open up.  They’ll talk when they’re ready.  When the words start coming, we offer careful listening and compassion, and then encouragement as they walk the journey toward healing.  One of our messages to these men and women is to refrain from mind-altering substances, which many of us have used in the past to numb the pain and to forget the horror.  We gently share with the veterans our own stories of the wrong ways we have taken, with the hope that God will use our testimonies to let our younger warriors know that we understand.  Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail.  But we’ll keep trying, because for many of us, this is our “survivor mission” and our answer to the common question, “Why was I spared when my buddies were not?”

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