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.
Preparing clergy for war: How chaplains train for combat
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.
Remembering the fallen: Learn about casualties
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.
"Jesus always ran to crises."
Really! And may I ask; Where is that in the Bible? Text please!
Despite Christianity completely dominating western civilization for the past ten thousand years, I fell Christian rights are being pushed aside to make way for the gays. I am stupid.
You are stupid, AND by your ho'mophobic comments, you obviously have a problem, in this area.
Our tax dollars have to pay for these nut-bags, but religtards don't want to cover women's health care?
Why is it when a believer cries hatred from atheist's and the atheist's respond with we don't hate you we hate religion, we never hear back a reply? What is it that they don't understand why religion is basically destroying humanity?
The eponym for docile is doctrine.
The word used in the text, Nii, is for "knowledge",
the Hebrew word for judgement is : פסק דין
the Hebrew word for knowledge is :
Which version of Hebrew. It is at least 4000 yrs old. lol
Thank you for taking the bait.
When WORSHIP n other atheists use gay slurs to insult christians and turn round to say christians hate gays I wonder what they are getting at. If u insult an Italian with a racist slur and tell me u love blacks i'll be surprised. No wonder gays prefer the church to non-belief.
Allah owns your soul, not your pathetic Jesus.
I hate tolerating non believers. I wish we could torture them into believing like our noble ancestors.
So, he's aggressive, AND ho'mophobic. Fits the study to a tee.
Jesus hooked up with a lot of guys.
This post is invariably stupid. I am an engineer n a minister. I seek to satisfy the human moral dillemma by following Christian spirituality. If I take tranquilizers it won't help. Go to an AA meeting. We have always known whether we are right or wrong but its justifying wrong actions thats bad.
You, sir, are obviously an out of touch fool.
You are no engineer, but a liar. No engineer would talk like a ten year old and make stupid mistakes like a ten year old.
There are no moral absolutes, Nii. Your morals are determined by your culture.
You are not born knowing the difference between good and evil – proving that Genesis is a lie and that there is no such thing as original sin, absolute morals, and showing your god to be nothing more than a story written to scare you into burning animals out of fear of your bbuugyman god.
If morals were the same everywhere, that would change the whole debate – but morals are different from one person to the next, from one culture to the next, and from one religion to the next.
Your god does not exist. Your fancy ideas about morals are shown to be false and imaginary. Prayers do not even work.
There are over 30 THOUSAND different Christian sects, all interpreting the Bible DIFFERENTLY.
You say there are morals yet you cannot pin down a single one throughout all of Christianity.
You are no engineer. You are a liar.
@TedM – whew! You sure tore nii a good one! Brilliant post man...brilliant.
You obviously feel like spewing vitriol on someone. lol. Morality is an intuitive behaviour not an intellectual one. That is why u a lawyer is not automatically a good person for knowing the law and neither is a policeman. We have a conscience- the moral dillemma. Who told u I'm lying? lol
I think he's the engineer of his toy train set!
Beware of his bridges. :twisted: Tell us, Nii, where did you go to school ?
But Nii, all the theologians in YOUR religion talk about "conscience formation" ? Sorta shoots that down. Are YOU a theologian too ?
The Church of Satan is a legit church according to US law. It has a following, a religious text, tax exempt status, and claims to be as old as Judaism. Why are there no Satanic chaplains getting a military paycheck and GI bill? How would you Xtians feel about having a Satanic chaplain preaching to soldiers on foward operating bases? They could preach stuff like "Screw the other guys, make sure you get home alive.", and "Stay in the rear with the gear, and other chaplains".
Also, to deny the Church of Satan is to deny Christianity.
All religions are a disgusting scam being perpetrated on the easliy decieved, therefore; chaplains of all relgions should be able to suckle on the tax payer. Or none should.
So why don't you take your Satan-loving self and join the military???
you sir, are dreadful!!
laurie- the bible designates all women as second class. Therefore, keep quiet and clean the house.
So instead of attacking the argument, you attack the person. This is a logical fallacy, but I can assume you are religious so logical fallacies are your bread and butter.
Also this link: http://www.churchofsatan.com/Pages/ChaplainsHandbook.html
The church did try to get satanic priests a military paycheck as chaplains but were denied. You will not find a Satanic Priest collecting a military paycheck as a Chaplain.
By the way, I am not Satanic (or even relgious) but I find the Church of Satan to more tolerable and less evil the Roman Catholics.
First, the Church of Satan does NOT claim to be as old as Judaism. It was founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey (www.churchofsatan.com). Secondly, I personally have known several Church of Satan members who have served or continue to serve honorably in the military, many of them having completed MANY tours of duty in the decade. Satanists do NOT join the military to be slackers; they take it seriously, and it is insulting that you would insinuate otherwise.
Many of these men have chosen to remain private about their affiliations, or revert to the label atheist (Satanism is an atheistic relgion). But they do so not because they are ashamed of their religion, nor for any malicious intent, but because despite standing on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan shoulder to shoulder with their fellow soldiers they know that their religion could cause them to not be promoted or cause harassment towards them. I think that is sad that so many of our non-Christian heroes in the military never get the recognition and honor they deserve, because our society insisted on the invalid premise that Christians built and maintain this country to the exclusion of all of us heathens messing it up, which could be nothing further from the truth.
Oh wow, an athiest has insulted a satanist. Thats a new one.
The church is not old, but the religion is, I am sure as long as there has been a story of God and Satan there have been followers of both sides. Even if I am wrong about the this the point of my argument still holds:
All religions are a disgusting scam being perpetrated on the easliy decieved, therefore; chaplains of all relgions should be able to suckle on the tax payer. Or none should.
Person: Here's a News Flash for you: Satanists do not believe in Satan. They are both Satanists and Atheists. I identify equally with both labels, and I would have been equally offended if someone had propagated similar insinuations about atheists. Incidentally, the Church of Satan also supports the taxation of churches and a secular society.
Maybe I should read more about the Curch of Satan before i use it as a devil's advocate in a post (Pun).
However, to claim to be both a Satanist and an athiest is contradictory. If your Church uses Satan as some some of metaphore for its egocentrism then it is a FAIL. To validate Satan is to validate christianity. If they were truely a secular oriented religion (oxymoron) they should have called the church "The Church of S3x, money, and Selfishness"
Ok, finally got to read about some of the Sataic Churche's belief's. From my previous exposure to the church i was lead to belief it promoted a belief in gratifying oneslf even at the expense of others. That any and all paths to personal wealth and power are acceptable.
However, it seems to be a lot less egocentric then that.
Using the word 'Satan' as a model or a mode of behavior because in Hebrew it means 'one who questions' is starting with a big bucket load of FAIL.
Haha, talk about a big bucket load of FAIL, check out the article's picture above.
I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out that there isn’t. Rather than live my life as if there isn’t a God and die to find out that there is” May God have mercy on the people who are so blinded and foolish to the point that they believe that the genius behind creation is mere coincidence. Rejecting Jesus Christ the Son of God is simply rejecting life. The choice is yours (freewill) Those who believe in Jesus will reign with Him in the end, those who reject Him will live forever in a place where you wont have to worry about seeing Him. P.S. The most popular religions today along when many others foretold the birth of Jesus King Messiah. I personally have faith in Jesus because His doctrine is pure and more powerful than any other. No one comes close to making as big of an impact in this world as Jesus did and no one ever will. He is a true hero who died for the people He knew would deny and kill Him. What greater love story is there in history?
boring! Pascal's wager.. It's part of being tricked by a "memeplex". If you don't know what a memeplex is, please google it. I'm not going to try to explain it to you.
Follower of Jesus,
Did you even bother to read the responses to your previous posts on page 11?
If the god of the bible is real he is a pr.ick and not worthy of worship.
Why are Christian haters so concerned with what Christians say or do? Why do you even bother to read articles that are clearly Christian in nature?
I don't see anyone bashing Jews (because people might think you're a Nazi?) I don't see any of you bashing Hindus or Budhists or Muslims or Druids or Wiccans (because that would be considered a 'hate crime' and isn't politically correct?) We don't bash atheists (we pray for you – sorry if you find that offensive)
You don't want to be preached to, so give us the same courtesy and leave us alone. You think we're stupid, so leave us alone in our 'stupidity'. You think we're ridiculous, and naive , so leave us in our naivety. We're not hurting you by what we believe.
Enough of the hate already!
amen amen and amen. But i am sorry to say that the hate will only get worse (as Jesus foretold)
Because you so-called Xtians go to the polls, and fk me out my rights. You dip-stik! That's why you're religion is so despised. Notice I don't despise you, just your religion.
Thinking people don't hate you for being religious. Thinking people hate you because you force your religion on the rest of us, telling us who we can marry, who can adopt children, who can get an abortion and why.
Maybe if you kept your nose out of our businesses we'd get along.
Instead, we wish you would simply leave us alone
Or at least shut the fcuk up.
Did it ever occurred to you that some atheists have actually served and died in our U.S. Military?
Umm Ed did Jesus teach or push religion? I'm pretty sure He was doing the complete opposite. Real Christians don't believe in religion we believe in love, we believe in Jesus. So I say down with religion and up with Christ.
You talk about christian haters, well I've got news for you. Atheists are the most discriminated against group in our U.S.A. You have no idea how much hate I've had to endure. T speak of my beleifs publicly would probably get me fired. I've Lost long time friends at the meer mention that I am an atheist. I'm subjected to Atheist Haters everywhere I chose to try to express my beleifs. There are many many times more atheist haters out there and a majority of them call themselves Christians.
Edwardo – I could say the same to you for going to the polls. People disagree. Get over it, and yourself.
Todd in DC – I have never forced anyone to do anything, nor do I have the power to. People vote and decide those things. Write your Congressional Representative. I personally have no issue with who marries who or who loves who. Those things are none of my business and I'm happy when someone finds love with anyone. Period. Now you can shut the fcuk up.
vulpecula – and I thank them for their service and applaud them. One has nothing to do with the other.
You Christians are so full of hate and intolerance that you have absolutely no defense against our complaints against your hateful and fascist oppression!!
YOU HATE US AND YOU SEEK TO FORCE US INTO YOUR RELIGION – THIS IS ILLEGAL AND INTOLERABLE!!!!
You hate being Americans! You want to be fascists with your own private theocracy AND I'M NOT TAKING IT ANY MORE!!
Well stated Laurie, well stated.
@Follower of Jesus – you are correct when I label all Xtians as haters, and that is unfair for me to do. There are just a large group of hypocrites, who in the name of Xtianity, abuse athiests, and gays alike. They totally gang up on gays, and they'd gang up on athiests too, if given the chance. I would never say anything negative about anyone's beliefs, but I am under attack..
Edwardo, we hate the sin but love the sinner. Sometimes you got to show tough love. like when the eight year old with a toothache is bawling for chocolate...its not question of rights
@ReclaimMarriage – I'm so sick of that "we don't hate the sinner, just the sin" rant, I could scream! It's B.S.!! I don't hate you either, just your horrid religion. If you're so big on the marriage thing, outlaw divorce! I don't hate the religionist, just the religion!
It has always perplexed me that athiests HATE believers so very much but it was fortold that this is how it will go down, I guess. The poster speaks of hating how we vote? Well, most of the people who are doing the hating don't even bother to vote so....... maybe they should get off their hind ends and shut up or put up. As for 'pushing our beliefs on society' – get over yourself. Are you under some deluded mindset that ALL Christians live, think ar even believe in the same things? Really? A quick look at the world around you will tell you otherwise. I truly do not care how you view my beliefs NOR do I care what your beliefs are – I just care if you treat me the way you want to be treated because THAT is the true measure of a person and NOT whether they pray or whom they pray to. So good luck on all that hate thats eating you up because it's not bothering me at all.
Your commented "Why do you even bother to read articles that are clearly Christian in nature?" Is what I was refering to.
Your mistaken. Being a veteran, I have every right and reason to want to read this article and comment on what I read. I don't troll Christian websites to pick fights.
If you want to be left alone, I suggest that you stay off public forums.
You said, "Edwardo, we hate the sin but love the sinner."
"Sin" is a religious concept. It doesn't exist in secular law. People that don't follow your religion don't sin.
You said, "Sometimes you got to show tough love."
Keep your bullshit delusions to yourself. I have no use for your mental illness. You are free to believe whatever nonsense you so obviously do, but you have no right to force any of it on the sane part of society.
You said, "like when the eight year old with a toothache is bawling for chocolate...its not question of rights"
It is most certainly about rights. It is about believers trying to restrict those that they don't agree with from enjoying the same rights as everyone else. It is exactly the same as discriminating based on skin color or left-handedness.
@ Edwards, regarding divorce, I have believed that for a long time.
No fault divorce is the biggest mistake we made as a society.
We should go back to divorce for adultery or abuse only. Once you get married you got to make it work!
And you think for a moment the kids would not know that ? THAT IS abuse.
How to get INSTANT PEACE ON EARTH: BAN RELIGION.
You are not reading in context. Look at this "the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" You are confusing this with "..who told u that u were naked". The cud see they were naked but thought nothing of it. You don't worry about seeing cos u can see!
Secondly u waited thinking I was no longer around to reply! lol. I don't believe knowing good from evil is wrong. It is legalism that is wrong and that is what God detested. Remember that ur judiciary knows how easy for justice to be miscarried. The tree had an opp remember. So describe that too!lol
Nii knows "what god detested". Bwahahahahahaha
All this is coz of gay's in the military being allowed to serve openly. Devine retribution!
thats a ridiculous idea. where is the logic in your thinking?
Yes moron... once again, your god is destroying the innocent to get to the guilty. Not sure who's the biggest bafoon here, you, or your god.
Wars and the rumors thereof. Todays are such ways. Sodom was and the times are now of. Sodomites of old times now are of the new times! In upcoming years the days will impart their lackings and frothings never as once was. Love therefor all who one meets as if they were your brother or sister! Let one's conscience not disway you on your living journey thru the many who do impart failures after failure! Keep safe your Godly aspiratons and transpire not unto the abyss of darkness and despairing virtues. Make clemencies and regularities your commonalities. Languish not in bad conscience throngings! Walk placidly amid life's waste and turmoils yet ever remember to find the pieces of peace there abouts! Blessed are the peacemakers for theirs are for righteousness sakes! Damned are those whose conscience is of ignorance and unfounded coersion!
Chaplains make about as much since as having E-meter operators.
Hey look, a guy who has no idea what being in the military is about popping off about something because he thinks he's better than others.
Chaplains offer more than just religious counseling. They are trained to help people without regard for faith. I could go to a Muslim or a Jewish chaplain, tell him I'm agnostic, and ask him (or her) for help and I'd get it without a side of religion.
Chaplains know where all the mental health resources are and how to get them. They have a direct line to a member's commander and can get him extra time if he needs it to decompress. Most importantly, Chaplains are one of the very few places that members can go to talk to someone with complete legal confidentiality.
You clearly have no idea what you're talking about here so please do us all a favor and crawl back under your bridge, troll.
Only 20 years
Does anyone know if there are atheist Chaplins in the army. I appreciate the boost in morale that Chaplins give,
but what about those of us who do not believe in a diet nor wish to?
Not specifically, no, as I understand it. At least I've never encountered one. All chaplains are trained to counsel people with or without regard to specific faith though. Each one I have known was very willing and able to help someone without so much as referring to any sort of religious matter.
I don't believe in a diet. I eat. Maybe the Chaplin will help me grow a mustache and be funnier :-)
I think they're called "psychologists"
Christ on the battlefield? What a joke. This guy is screwed in more ways than one. He thinks Christ, if he existed, would approve of killing people? He is another Xtian who has superiority issues.
Jesus Christ? He's no different than our current C in C thinking of himself the "almighty savior"....Let the rest of us humanbeings decide "whom is" without prejudice....
Nii, are you so stupid as to think that someone who doesn't even KNOW that they are nu..de is intelligent?
They didn't even KNOW they were nu..de! How stupid is that? Pretty darn stupid. And they didn't even KNOW the difference between good and evil which meant that they did NOT KNOW what good and evil even WERE.
To do something "forbidden" when you don't KNOW what good and evil even ARE takes massive stupidity and a clear lack of anything resembling intelligence.
God wanted them to stay that way: STUPID and DUMB and NU..DE doing anything whatsoever while having NO KNOWLEDGE of good or evil.
He wanted them to stay nu..de. If you can't understand this I wish you would just die from your stupidity.
He wanted them to NOT KNOW what good and evil even meant. HE DID NOT WANT THEM TO KNOW WHAT YOU PROCLAIM TO BE MORALITY.
He was angry they did what he knew they would do – what he created them to do – what he MADE THEM DO.
God did all the evil in the Garden. He was the serpent, the snake. HE MADE THE SNAKE TOO YOU IDIOT.
We are considered "sinners" because we are not apes running nu..de through the trees. We are "doomed" to die because of this? The whole thing is a giant bowl of bullsh..t!!!!
You want me to believe that what these fairy-tale people supposedly did six thousand years ago is MY FAULT????
Sorry, but I am not as STUPID as YOU ARE. I am not ashamed of having a BRAIN.
I do not consider it wrong to know the difference between GOOD and BAD, but YOU DO.
Go die in a fire you useless piece of ignorant trash. We do not need your insanity on this Earth!!!
More responses to your post up! Your anger is misdirected. If u are serious about knowing Christian theology then the books are there. Christian spirituality is gained by contact with spiritual Christians and learning to show charitable love. I love u as myself. Spread the love.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.