Dear Warrior, You Are Loved
Nothing can really prepare you for combat. In boot camp, they break you down and build you back up. For the Marine Corps, that means getting off the bus with drill instructors in your face the moment you pull up, and it ends with events like the accomplishment of the crucible, and eventually graduation. It tests you in ways that you probably had not been tested before. Then, you go home for a few days, just to say goodbye again, and if you’re like me, you go to SOI (school of infantry) to get that foundational understanding of what it means in becoming a warrior. Early mornings. Countless hikes and runs. Seemingly non-stop training. Rifle ranges. Cadences with words like Going to the graveyard, where all the dead sleep. I pull out my e-tool (shovel), and I begin to eat! Whatever dehumanizes the enemy and makes the fear of death for you an afterthought is instilled in you.
This, of course, leads into heading to your unit (shout out to my Bravo 1/5 brothers!) where you again realize that the previous step was just scratching the surface, and the training is even more rigorous and they continue to both tear you down while also building you up as a part of your unit. The reality of death continues to be an afterthought, and the enemy, well, is still less than human.
Back to my original point: nothing really prepares you for combat, and to anyone who has never experienced it, you can’t really begin to know what it is like. For all of the training, nothing prepares that young adult who sees his brother shot, or hears his brother scream after being hit by a sniper, just to later see the blood soaked arm of the Marine who applied first aid. Nothing prepares the machine gunner who is following orders, but takes out a bus full of people because he thought it was a vehicle borne IED. Nothing prepares you for the blank look on your face and the emotional numbness that you feel when you have another human in your sites, you pull the trigger, and they never get back up again. Nothing prepares you to see oil fields on fire, the fall of a city, or the sight and smell of death. Nothing prepares you for this, and more that is seen and done in combat.
You come home, and you feel like you want everyone to think that you’re okay. I shoved it down, just like I did with the rest of my pain. You’re not sure what or how to feel, and you’re not sure where or if you belong. You’re afraid to let anyone see the real you. You’re unlovable, and far too broken to be put back together. And God? There’s no way that he would ever accept someone like you.
Personally, I remember all of this, and I struggled for some time- even today with some of these things. I always thought that if people knew the “monster” inside, they would reject me. I believed that God’s forgiveness was for other people, not for me. Not after all that I had done. I listened to these lies for a long time, and I am sharing it in hopes that if you are going through it right now, that you would know that these beliefs are simply not true.
What you experienced in combat was traumatic. You experienced some awful events, and all that you feel is left is the pain. You’re also mourning- you feel as though you lost a part of yourself, and you wish you could get it back. You believe that you’re broken, and there are too many pieces to be put back together. It is overwhelming, and all you want is peace- no matter what that looks like.
In my life, I felt all of these things, and I hope that my experience is helpful in what you’re going through. I never attempted suicide, but I used to pray for God to kill me. I wanted peace, but I didn’t want to be a statistic. I felt regret, I felt alone, I felt shattered.
The truth is, I did change, and so have you. But that isn’t a bad thing, as our experiences shape us and can prepare us for that next chapter in life. And the thing about being broken, is that you cannot make a beautiful mosaic without the broken pieces. God will put the pieces back together and create something beautiful; a masterpiece. Finally, no matter what, God’s love is for you.
But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing — not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing — can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37–39, The Voice).
God’s love does not cease. It is an eternal quality, and it is for you. God does not condemn you (look up John 8, Acts 9, and Romans 8:1 if you have time), and nothing you have done or could do will ever change that. Your past does not change your value, and it does not change how God views you. Jesus Christ came for broken people like you and me. Yes, even the combat veteran who has seen, done, and experienced all that you have. At the end of the day, God’s love is so vast that you could never make him stop loving you. His forgiveness is as far as the east is from the west- never ending (Psalm 103:12). Finally, God is near to you and your broken heart (Psalm 34:18). Dear Warrior, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.