Editor’s note: CNN.com writer Moni Basu is author of “Chaplain Turner's War,” published by Agate Digital.
By Moni Basu, CNN
Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) - Darren Turner insisted on going to war, even though the Army usually reserves desk jobs at home for new chaplains like him.
Turner was young and green, enthusiastic about taking God to the battlefield. The Army captain had learned that people in pain are often wide-open to inviting God into their lives.
Jesus always ran to crises. Turner was going to do the same.
He’d enrolled in seminary in 2004 at Regent University in Virginia, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. And early in his spiritual journey, he was inspired by Christian writer John Eldredge, who suggests that American men have abandoned the stuff of heroic dreams, aided by a Christianity that tells them to be "nice guys."
God, says Eldredge, designed men to be daring, even dangerous.
Turner arrived in Iraq in May 2007 with the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment amid a raging insurgency. His soldiers faced an invisible but lethal enemy in booby-trapped houses and roads laced with massive bombs.
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Chaplain Turner’s war would unfold on many fronts. He would be a soldier on the battlefield. A counselor behind closed doors. He was a friend, even a father, to his men.
And when his 15-month tour was over, Turner returned home to face all the problems he had counseled his soldiers about: anger, depression, stress and – most important for him – preserving relationships with loved ones.
Nearly 4,500 American troops died in the Iraq war. More than 30,000 more were physically wounded. Countless others live with scars that can't be seen, like post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury. Many have struggled with regaining their lives at home.
Darren Turner counsels a soldier inside a sleeping container at Patrol Base Hawkes, southeast of Baghdad.
Turner had recognized the needs his soldiers would have after witnessing the horrors of combat, after losing friends.
In Iraq, he had comforted and advised soldiers at Forward Operating Base Falcon, in southeastern Baghdad, and in the combat outposts around the villages of Arab Jabour.
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At Falcon, the Army provided a morale phone that allowed soldiers to make free 15-minute calls home. But Turner knew it wasn't enough. He carried a cell phone in the left shoulder pocket of his uniform and whipped it out whenever a soldier signaled domestic distress at home.
"Call her," he would say. "Call her now and tell her you love her."
When they returned to Georgia in the summer of 2008, Turner told his soldiers that their families would be their cushion. He knew his men were suffering; that the ghosts of Iraq would haunt them, maybe for the rest of their lives.
What he did not know then was that he would not himself be immune to the same threats. He neglected to heed his own advice and his life floundered.
I’d spent many weeks with Turner in Iraq for a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but I didn't know about his troubles until I drove up to meet him and his wife, Heather, earlier this year at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
An exhausted Darren Turner catches a nap at his desk inside his tent at Forward Operating Base Falcon near Baghdad.
On that rainy February day, Turner told me that he’d come back from Iraq and felt like the bomb defuser in the movie "The Hurt Locker," who goes into a grocery store and is overwhelmed by the mesmerizing variety of cereals.
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It was a lot to process after having few choices in Iraq. Reverse culture shock.
"I wanted everything in there but I wasn't sure what to buy," Turner said.
He also detected a lack of public concern for the men and women fighting overseas. Off post, people went about their lives without a real understanding of the sacrifices made by American service members.
At first the anger boiled inside. But then it began to surface. He took it out on Heather. It was a release so that he could keep his work as normal as possible.
Little things like arranging the dishwasher became big fights with Heather. Big things like Heather’s life plans became small issues that Turner mocked or discounted because they did not fit his own plans.
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"I came home angry," Turner told me. "Even my attitude, which I thought I was in control of, was walling me in. I didn't realize it until my wife told me, 'You're no longer welcome in our house.'"
During the deployment in Iraq, Turner had pined for Heather and his three young children, Elie, Sam and Meribeth. Now, he was losing them.
"The thing I was angry at was the very thing I was longing for during my deployment - my family," he said.
Heather said her husband was disengaged, impatient. She wanted them to seek counseling but Turner refused, insisting that she was the one who had issues.
Just a few months after his return from Iraq, Darren and Heather Turner separated.
“I was very selfish and tried to control my surroundings, which crushed those closest to me,” Turner said.
Turner eventually realized how much he had hurt his wife, he said. How he had stepped away from God's calling by failing those he cared about most.
After finishing Airborne School, he quit the Army in August 2009, believing the military would demand too much time away from his family at a critical juncture in their lives.
He took a job in sales at a Home Depot not far from his house in Dacula, Georgia. He struggled to mend his marriage and reconnect with his faith.
Four months later, Turner and his wife reconciled. He chose to return to the Army as a chaplain, he said, "a renewed man both in marriage and profession."
He and Heather found their calling. God, he said, gave them a special connection with soldiers and their families. They know they will stay busy for a while.
The U.S. mission in Iraq ended on December 18, 2011, as the last American soldiers climbed into hulking trucks and armored vehicles at Camp Adder, the southernmost base in Iraq.
The war, however, is sure to continue on a second front - in America's cities and homes. And in the offices of counselors and chaplains like Darren Turner.
Turner reminisces about Iraq often, and when I saw him at Fort Campbell, he told me he wrestled with mixed feelings on the day America's military presence ended. He hopes that, in the end, the war will have been worth the blood that was spilled.
Another war, the one in Afghanistan, is far from over, with casualties mounting every month. Today, Turner counsels soldiers serving there. His words, honed from experience, are more specific now.
Get Skype, he says.
Perhaps it's not what a soldier expects to hear from a man of God. It’s certainly not the stuff of Sunday sermons.
But it's practical advice that Turner knows will go a long way toward filling the emotional vacuum. He believes distance from one’s own family can trigger a breakdown, especially when a soldier is coping with injuries and combat stress.
"Being away from your family for that long is way more difficult than I anticipated," Turner said.
Skype, he discovered, is the next best thing to being at home. You can't feel someone or smell them but you can see and hear.
"That's two of the senses," he said. "That's exponential."
Turner’s pastoral passion is still driven by the force that first drew him to the chaplaincy: Jesus.
Everyone has faith in something, Turner said. His own conviction is that Jesus answers longings in the human heart and provides perspective. Beyond immediate emergencies, the larger story is one of hope.
“He's been there on the other side, and came back to tell us,” Turner said. “That's the biggest event in human history, something that maintains hope, even in battle. When soldiers get that, it changes everything.”
Turner said he may not have been God’s perfect messenger, but that his selfish choices do not negate God’s love.
Turner is thankful for that. And that he can carry on with his calling.
Exactly what crisis did Jesus run to? Wouldn't it have been faster if he had taken the horse he had his disciples steal?
Maybe it was when he ran away from the Romans? No? Or when he ran from the priests? No?
Maybe it was when he spent a month in the wilderness? No?
I can't think of any time when he "ran towards" anything in the Bible at all. He stayed out of trouble by running away.
It took Judas to turn him in before he was really in trouble. And he didn't run towards that either.
And now he's dead forever. Oh, well....
He was a "gonner" when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers, (in a city TOTALLY based on a "temple" economy). There was a standing order to execute anyone who disrupted the Pax Romana. He was a nobody.
He blesses the boys as they stand in line
The smell of gun grease and the bayonets they shine
He's there to help them all that he can
To make them feel wanted he's a good holy man
Sky pilot.....sky pilot
How high can you fly
You'll never, never, never reach the sky
He smiles at the young soldiers
Tells them its all right
He knows of their fear in the forthcoming fight
Soon there'll be blood and many will die
Mothers and fathers back home they will cry
Sky pilot.....sky pilot
How high can you fly
You'll never, never, never reach the sky
He mumbles a prayer and it ends with a smile
The order is given
They move down the line
But he's still behind and he'll meditate
But it won't stop the bleeding or ease the hate
As the young men move out into the battle zone
He feels good, with God you're never alone
He feels tired and he lays on his bed
Hopes the men will find courage in the words that he said
Sky pilot.....sky Pilot
How high can you fly
You'll never, never, never reach the sky
You're soldiers of God you must understand
The fate of your country is in your young hands
May God give you strength
Do your job real well
If it all was worth it
Only time it will tell
In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes
The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words
"Thou shalt not kill"
Sky pilot.....sky pilot
How high can you fly
You never, never, never reach the sky
If god were real and good, there wouldn't be any need for armies or war.
Must be hard to reconcile "love your enemy" and "turn the other cheek" with the reality of war. That would be enough to make anybody confused.
Kind of like hate the sin, but love the sinner?
Never understood why Xtians raise their hands when they pray. Is that an antennae to god? If you didn't do it, would he care? Why pray anyway? Doesn't he already know what's going to happen? Will he change his mind about the future. If you pray for rain, and I pray for sunshine, will we get sprinkles?
I haven't said anything out of respect for this solders, but yea, antenna had come to mind already. notice how he has the other hand on the guy and they are both standing in water. A really strange image to someone so long out of the sway of religion.
The only thing wrong with a Southern Baptist is, they didn't keep them under long enough.
Please do a little bit of recrseah. The Facebook portion of this bill has not been addressed in the public hearings nor has any teacher ever been called to testify for or against the use of social networking sites by students. The provision was ignored by the media, because each year Amy Hestir has been brought before Jane Cunningham's committee to testify about the horrific things that happened to her. There has been no testimony about Facebook or any other site. Check the articles that have been written about it. You will find none before the Joplin tornado. I had one AP reporter call me and interview me about it before the bill was passed. The story never ran. AP never called again until the bill was signed.And I might add, the Speaker of the House Steve Tilley is on a YouTube video telling another Joplin blogger that he did not even know the bill passed.
Remember how 'real' Santa Claus was? (for those of you that are Christian or had parents into it just to keep you on your best behavior) ... funny, that's kinda what religion does. BE GOOD OR NO PRESENTS! (be good or go to hell?) lol so amusing.
The day you found out he was fake, it crushed you. I know, I was there. But it was suppose to do you a favor... EVERYTHING ELSE should have gone up for Q&A...... brainwashing is extremely effective when it's done from birth.
I feel sorry for those that can't or won't break free of the grasp of imaginary tales created to keep you in line. Be good for GOODNESS SAKE. Bad people do bad things regardless of belief... but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion.
This is what happens when u put faith in magic, you see how the real world is and its just a bit shocking to bear
Nazi's recruited soldiers very similar to this. Religion is for the weak.
the chaplain is fortunate to have a second calling of sorts. the problem is: most of the military people DONT have that second goal when going home. They need to have faith in something, but they need help in setting life goals for themselves. we are failing our military. we are failing our young adults. we are failing older adults. the US is failing our people on all levels, but we should consider our military coming home in a state of emergency. Keep up the good work Chaplain.
Then we had Bill Clinton who closed so many bases and gave so many jobs to third world countries and our guys come home jobless. When are we going to reverse this? We also give alot of jobs to foreighners, microsoft for instance. What about our people?
The draw down started in Reagans team after the end of the Cold War. There was no reason to maintain Federal spending on the military. It's the military, not a welfare army.
And Clinton isn't responsible for Microsoft jobs going overseas. Microsoft made those choses. And at the time, the economy was doing so great that America couldn't provide enough skilled labor. If you want to see America recover, go get a degree in Mathematics or Engineering or the Sciences. Something that America is lagging behind in now and foreign contries are beginning to excel in.
Your very right Teresa and Bob...Our soldiers should be considered as in a state of emergency. When the article spoke of the indifference of Americans to the plight of our soldiers and their families I truly felt ashamed. I value our soldiers and their sacrifice but what have I done to make their lives easier? Tell them how much I appreciate their bravery? Nothing. In daily life I never hear anyone discuss what our soldiers are going through so that we can all live in peace except for the politically motivated attacks on if wars are valid or invalid. It pains me when people relate the war to Vietnam because although the war itself may not have been popular, the way our veterans were treated after the war was dang near obscene. I have heard stories of many who buried their uniforms and never spoke of it because of how unpopular it was. Our soldiers are not to blame for political decisions, they go where they are sent and serve the best they can where they are placed. Our soldiers deserve more from Americans, more empathy and more people actively trying to help them recover from the trauma of war. Provisions need to be made to help soldiers get jobs and the counseling some will need. I hope Americans will set aside their political agendas and reach out to our soldiers, not just on Memorial Day, but everyday.
So this guy is demonstrating the power of his faith by standing in a large pale with his eyes closed and his hand raised, has moderately severe emotional adjustments after the war like anybody else would (even though he was never in a fire fight), and his great spiritual advice to other veterans with families is 'get skype'? Wow. The power of jesus is great indeed!
^Like. (Except the pale man is standing in a pail). :twisted:
Listen here, guy, you don't have to be involved in a firefight to get PTSD. Sometimes being torn away from your family for months at a time, getting acclimated to your new environment, then thrown back home is enough, trust me. Definitely sounds like you've never been there or done that, but I am glad that people like me and this guy fight for your right to say whatever moronic crap you want to.
Trouble is, THIS fight has NOTHING to do with our rights. They have somehow concinced you it does. In fact it does not. It's a waste of time, treasure, and lives. What goes on in caves 1/2 world away will NEVER be within the control of the US. 911 happenened because the fat old men who ran Logan allowed security to be as loose as a sieve, and the airlines allowed people to get into co'ckpits. THIS fight has NOTHING to do with our rights.
Yeah buddy, and the majority of Americans thought the same thing in the late 30's and early 40's.
"Turner said he may not have been God’s perfect messenger, but that his selfish choices do not negate God’s love."
Wow, it there is one thing I would like atheists to understand, it's that. Don't reject Jesus because of Christians or Christian organizations. The central message of Jesus Christ is that humans are deeply and permanently flawed and that the only answer is Jesus redeeming act on the cross.
And I would like christians to understand that the message that humans are deeply flawed and that someone dying 2000 yrs ago that you had nothing to do with is in part your fault and whose resurrection you must believe in despite a complete lack of evidence in order to avoid eternal torment is actually bizarre and monstrous. Especially when you teach that threatening doctrine to children.
God sent Jesus to die so that our sins could be forgiven, right?
Um, if he wanted our sins to be forgiven, couldn't he just, you know, forgive them? I mean, he's God, right?
Why all the blood and gore? Why the human sacrifice? - Unless, of course, your God had no choice in all this, which would mean he's not all powerful.
It. Makes. No. Sense.
It's for that specific reason why I don't accept christianity as the "true" religion. Why the heck should I walk around every day with the guilt of being irreversibly flawed when I can accept my faults next to my virtue and measure myself against a real rubric like my friends and family. If I keep good company and live a life that I can be proud of, why do I need supernatural intervention to lead me towards something that feels wrong?
It DOES make no sense.
The Garden myth, (the "fall") is NOT about sin. It's about Chaos and Order, (something the Ancient Near Eastern nomads were fascinated with, see the Tiamet Slays the Dragon of Chaos myth). The tree they "ate" from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good AND Evil, (NOT good OR evil). The myth was about the "encompassing of opposites", and the need for choices. So YES, it's not about "flaws", or "sin" It's about the need to make choices. As long as humans live in the dimension of spacetime, no Jeebus is gonna be able to change, (save), them from the need for choices. All the rest is BS.
You see, Chad, that Christian "answer" to all our problems is what many folks find completely nonsensical. The idea that if we humans would only torture our god to death, he would then decide to do something really nice for us (i.e. "save" us) is beyond absurd.
@CJ "resurrection you must believe in despite a complete lack of evidence in"
@Chad "4 facts nearly universally accepted among scholars and new testament historians:
1. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate
2. Jesus died and was buried in a tomb
3. After 3 days that tomb was found to be empty by a group of His women followers
4. Following that, many followers reported meeting a physically resurrected Jesus. They believed this so strongly that they were willing to go to their deaths proclaiming the truth of it.
@Ann "God sent Jesus to die so that our sins could be forgiven, right? Um, if he wanted our sins to be forgiven, couldn't he just, you know, forgive them? I mean, he's God, right?"
@Chad "an excellent question, one that Jesus Himself asked in the garden
"he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26
All I can tell you is that there is no other way. That's it.
@Confused "Why the heck should I walk around every day with the guilt of being irreversibly flawed when I can accept my faults next to my virtue and measure myself against a real rubric like my friends and family. If I keep good company and live a life that I can be proud of, why do I need supernatural intervention to lead me towards something that feels wrong?"
@Chad "Christianity isnt about making you feel better, it isnt a self help program.
It is just reality.
If you dont accept the atonement for your sin (as I do for my sin), you get to spend all of eternity regretting that decision..
We're always better off facing reality.
@Schmoogalicious "You see, Chad, that Christian "answer" to all our problems is what many folks find completely nonsensical. The idea that if we humans would only torture our god to death, he would then decide to do something really nice for us (i.e. "save" us) is beyond absurd."
@Chad "beyond that little sound bite, what do you actually know about Christianity? Are you familiar with the contents of the bible?
A scapegoat my seem absurd when it's framed that way.
But, do you find it absurd that I would pay a parking ticket that my daughter couldn't pay? Would that offend you?
"Turner was young and green, enthusiastic about taking God to the battlefield. The Army captain had learned that people in pain are often wide-open to inviting God into their lives."
WOW!!! Talk about taking advantage of a situation in order to indoctrinate someone into an evangelical religious cult. This is stooping to the lowest level of manipulation in order to have control over another person by "catching" them at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable. Shame!! Shame!! Shame!! The military should be very careful about who they have as chaplains and what motives they have for being on the battlefield. The last thing a soldier in distress needs is some religious crackpot trying to force his religious views and beliefs on him/her when experiencing the horrors of war.
God Bless This Man
Why? Did he sneeze?
How the Department of Defense can continue to allow the subversive brainwashing of our nation's Armed Forces is disgusting.
When will they stop letting these religious traitors to subvert and subordinate our people?
We have a long way to go towards real security measures. I would not put up with this nonsense if I were in charge, and yes I am a wonderful armchair general, thank you.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the deliberate insubordination going on here.
That's all it takes for some religious idiot to grab a gun and start shooting other Americans.
We've got Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc., but if any of them think their religion is mightier than our Constltution, they would be wrong and traitors at heart.
I do not want such people serving my country. I want smart people not religious zombies. Time to cut them off.
Last I checked the chaplains were seen voluntarily. It is a soldiers choice. Yes, they are going through some of the hardest moments of their lives but I refuse to say that a soldier who can make the decision of laying down their life for their country is incapable of making the decision of if they would like to A) talk to the chaplain and B) take any of the chaplains advice. I am from San Diego and know a great many soldiers. I have never heard one complain that chaplains had forced religion on them. If they were not religious, they didn't go to the chaplain. It amazes me that you (an admitted armchair general) would make such sweeping generalizations as "cut them off".....freedom means that those who are religious should be allowed access to practice their faith and those that are not religious have that freedom as well. If every soldier was forced to have prayer meetings I would agree, but your claim is that religious freedom should be stripped from our soldiers. If you have such a problem with who serves in our military you could always go enlist yourself instead of insulting those who do make sacrifices for our country. If you can do better, than go right ahead.
Im sure Jesus, like most human males, stopped thinking weapons were cool around age 13. He wants no place on our battlefields.
Mental disorder hiding in professed christianity! The military should simply rid itself of the entire chaplain corps.
The military doesn't punish you for visiting a chaplin. Your career can be in jeopardy for trying to get your mental health taken care of. Mental health in the military is a joke. Then we wonder why the suicide rate is so high.
It's that simple. Of course, they should just consult you!!
Sad – you're right. As a psychologist, I'm required to keep appropriate records, like a medical chart – but that often would keep someone from wanting to see me and "go on record." (I work in law enforcement, which has some similarities to the military.) That's why I've mentioned the idea of "morale officers" as maybe a better replacement for chaplains. They could be mental health professionals, OR clergy with appropriate mental health training, but they'd be free from some of the stigma.
You said "The military doesn't punish you for visiting a chaplin"
The military did use to find ways to encourage troops to go to a sunday service though. Not going ment you would get stuck with some work detail. Don't know if it's still like that, but I suspect that it is.
I would like to know, how far the tension between Christianity and Islam is one of several reasons for modern wars. If this tension would really be a reason for the wars, there would be a simple solution for that problem.
We needed an international council of all acknowledged theologians, historians and Islamic leaders. There the stupidity of Islam should be proved by scientific means, which nobody could contradict. Nobody can contradict a scientific opinion of a council.
Of course, many Islamic leaders would not accept the decision of such a council, but at least ordinary Turks and Arabs, Egyptians, etc. could consider that decision and maybe they would finally stop to support Islamists in their countries or even jail them.
Yet, seemingly even in the Western World some manufacturers of weapons are interested in endless wars and as a sideffect media have something to report. What a boredom would emerge without the daily suicide bombing. Ain't that right?
Have we ever asked ourselves, why no such a council takes place? Of course, there are forces in our societies, which hinder that. The manufacturers of weapons and the media earn a lot of money by the wars. Beside a lot of military officers also want to keep their easy work.
We must realize that there are very evil people on this planet, which sacrifice human lifes for dollars.
The destroying spirits are the kings of Medes (Iran, Iraq, etc)
"They had as king over them the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon in hebrew, and in greek Apollyon"
Abaddon/Apollyon means: the destroyer, the place of destruction.
If we continue to forsake God, they are the ones who come in.
Good one, how many Catholics and Christians would let their beliefs go up against scientific scrutiny and then have to disavow their belief system based on the findings?
Prayer changes things .
Name a single example!
You are here, proof positive. God bless
Prayer changes things
As do many non-prayer things.
LOL! Prayer changes things as much as "hoping really hard" or wishing someone "good luck" does. The 1% of the time your "prayers come true" is hailed as proof, while the 99% of the time they dont is the "lord working in mysterious ways".
LOL @ religion!
Give me a testable example of prayer changing anything. There have been studies founded by christian groups that acutally prove prayer doesn't do anything.
Explain why this god has never healed an amputee.
You explain how you know that such healing has not occurred in all of recorded history. God bless
Prayer really changes things
The military always uses religion as a tactic. Hitler had 300 priests and ministers at the battle of Stalingrad. Their job was to convince the German troops that God was on their side. Evidently God was on Stalin's side because he won the battle.
where is your god now? ^_^
Same place he has always been. why did you hear something?
Jim, when did you change your handle from Are there really atheit (ha ha on the spelling)- or only soulless people to Jim Thane? Ridiculous when people use several different handles to try to make a point.
In order to be baptized, the chaplain should have to pee on you. I'll bet you'd see a whole lot more atheists! ;)
yet another point about atheists
It might not bother me as much as it might you. For myself I would then simply have my head annointed with oil.
TR1XEN: your comment is the weirdest comment I have read by a poster online in15 or more years. I'm trying, but I cant even imagine where that came from or what YOU wanted it to mean..... even if I go to the pervertedest corners of my mind.
Even if you meant it at face value, I'm wondering what the he 11 is going on in your mind. peace.
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