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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
"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.
Because ALL good scientists discount the possibility of God and purpose in our universe. Not! You may be surprised to learn that there are great numbers of scientists who believe in some form of the divine. So enough with the science trumps faith, it is completely bogus. http://www.templeton.org/purpose/
I was especially surprised to see Jane Goodall responding in the positive. Goodall was a young disciple of Dr Leaky and his search for early man/pre-man.
Science requires proof and faith requires faith. Without proof of a magical creator the default is to not believe in a magical nonsense. In addition nothing shows that we need a purpose to exist. The drive to thrive and survive is why we cling to life.
Show us the study. Prove it.
Religion is about faith. If it's "provable" it NOT about faith. Science has NOTHING to do with gods. What is the Null hypothesis ? Stop preaching at us, preacher man.
One of those pesky theist theoretical physicists I've been posting about:
He is not pesky, he is just a person trained in theoretical physics that does not reject faith. The claim that faith and science are compatible is just an unsupported claim and useless.
Military chaplains are there to give spiritual support to those personnel in need. Spreading religious nonsense is not his job and he should be removed from the military.
@charlesCT. I do not understand what is your question? What I found is that Christ was looking for me, when I was not looking for Him. I found that He has loved me with everlasting love. Before God created anything He loved me in Christ; my whole life is His perfect plan (past, present and future eternity) God has giving me the mind of Christ: Love for the Creator.
@ Bucky ball. Unless you see yourself as a vessel of honor/mercy; you will never know the love of God in Christ for a chief of sinner, and I am glad you understand God's sovereignty in Salvation. Proverbs 16:4 "The LORD hath made all for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" Many people will hear this true in the last days, but few are chosen to believe it. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
Sorry, I assumed English was your primary language. I see that it is not. I have heard of many Native Americans, but am so very sorry, I never heard of Chief of Sinner. I will study about him. Yes, you are 100 % correct. God did make the wicked for the day of evil, and that indeed makes perfect sense to me now. Indeed it has all become clear to me. I will go look for the first pail I can find, and jump in, and get Baptism. Then I will have to begin to speak in bible-speak, for indeed it makes such perfect sense to all. I do understand, that while my Lord and Jeebes said he would BRB, and you are yet, for unto still waiting, that THAT was just a fluke, and that these ARE the final days. I also do understand that a Loving God created billions of people, and chose to elect but a few. That all makes perfect sense to me now. Yes indeed. I was so blind. I know not how, I could have been so blind. Am So very glad I KNOW I am one of the few, because I can now tell myself, forsooth, yeah unto my very self, that very thing. Forsooth. Alleluia. Amen.
@ larry. Proverbs 16:9 "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps" Jeremiah 10:23 "O LORD, I know that the way of man [is] not in himself: not in man that walketh to direct his steps" John 9:1-3 "And as [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man which was blind from [his] birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" It was God's will that this man was born blind, according to His purpose. The work was to be manifested in Him, only God opens the eyes of the blind; today He is opening the eyes of spiritual blinds. God's chosen people are given a new heart to a proclaim His salvation; and if you hit someone between the legs, that is God's will for you; without the Spirit of Christ that is what most people will do when they hear God's sovereingty of life and salvation.
@ allen. Free will of man doctrine is a strong delusion sent by God to vessels fit for destruction. The fall of Adam is the plan of God. Romans 5:14 "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" The blue print was already made before the creation of man, Jesus Christ has to come to save chosen sinners; chosen before the foundation of the world. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" man without the Spirit of Christ loves to hear he has a free will; not God's chosen people, Jesus Christ rules over the kingdom of men. The King of kings is not begging man to believe in Him; He is working Salvation in the lives of His people. The Wicked has been revealed, he teaches free will of man doctrine; he sit in throne (the heart) as God. Man believes is in his/her power to save the soul.
You are kidding, right ? Listen to yourself. Do you have any idea how idiotic that is ? So your god intentionally made a system, so he would have to be a jerk, and require a sacrifice of his kid, to please himself, and on top of that decided to lie to man and tell him he had free will, and not to sin, but in reality, man had no free will. If god made the blue print that way, then he is an evil god. If the system was required, then your mean god is not master of his creation. Why couldn't he just say, "ok, I forgive you, never mind" ? You say, out of the other side of you mouth, he is a forgiving god. Well, obviously he isn't. Instead of all this Babble spouting here, maybe read Elaine Pagels "The Origins of Satan", and learn some history. If the whole ball of wax was a "plan" which then had to be undone, your god is psychotic. Oh and spare me. "God works in mysterious ways". I forgot. Actually you DO know NO other Christian would agree with any of that crap. It's what they call "heresy". Free will is one of the foundations of their theology. It IS wrong, but not for the reasons you give. You are NOT a Christian. I don't know what exactly they call that nonsense, (some sort of "predestination" .. ??) I don't know about the fringe Protestant cults.. but THAT is so ridiculous it's beyond funny. Did you just make that all up, in your bedroom ?
I realize that one can justify any passage in the Bible to fit a need, but what this young man needed is not what you found. You were serious. Right?
Not sure where Xtians get the idea their religion is peaceful. The act of murder is rampant in the Bible. In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night. In addition to these crazy and immoral laws, there are plenty of examples of God's irrationality by his direct killing of many people for reasons that defy any rational explanation such as killing children who make fun of bald people, and the killing of a man who tried to keep the ark of God from falling during transport. There are also countless examples of mass murders commanded by God, including the murder of women, infants, and children.
>>>"...especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed "
John 8:5 ... "5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” "
Johns 8:7 ... "When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
So when you say that the Bible...espeically the old testament... commands folks to be killed, as Christian all I have to do is look towards John 8:7 and I see what Jesus commands. If I am without sin then the command can be carried out ...
...Maybe you should go and challenge the Jewish members of society, since it is in their book it is commanded.
I thought you believe that Jesus IS "God"? Would this not be the same "God" who wrote the Hebrew OT?
Jesus did not say it was a different God, he didn't even say ignore the old law. He just said that us who are Christians can not carry out the "command" that Edwardo unless we are with out sin.
Which is why I am Pro-Life and ANti-Death Penalty.
It is also why I question my fellow Christians who are so vocally against Gays and Lesbians. As soon as they declare that it is a "sin", then they fall into the John 8's and they need to check themselves.
What's a "Crosstian"??
The article is about so much more than just war. It's also about the suffering of the living. Who cares for them? Who helps hold them together? Who can they go to deal with the trauma they have endured? One man in this article chose to try. He suffered personally for that and yet he still chose to try again. Where does that kind of compassion and desire to heal come from?
Where would this world be if all of us had that level of compassion for our fellow man?
What's that a metal can jacuzzi?
Sunday Evening, 2012
The Apostles' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(references used are available upon request)
Reality is that God lives! I know he lives and loves you. You can also know if you sincerely ask God for wisdom.
@Peace – For real? You want us to ask god for wisdom? Apparently you asked, and it wasn't granted. Don't guess I'll bother.
What was the point of this war? Iraq now follows Iran, and Taliban are still there. Osama is gone, but thousands are converted everyday. What was accomplished that could not have been done by peaceful means. In the end, the improvished in America, the middle class, and the people who faught paid the ultimate price. None of this ever made sense to me. Does people respsect America more now? Do they fear it more now? Do they care more now? I am not sure they do. Many people died in the pas 12 years, and many still will because of the action of a few. I just one day humanity is guided to what benefits it; instead of wasing massive resources killing each other while millions are still sick and need all of us to help them. It breaks my heart to see the level this humanity has reached.How many schools does a billion dollar missle builds. How many sick American die that a cost of missle can help them recover. This is pure insanity.
The point is it employs people, namely the military. It makes big profits for those elites who have their hand in the war machine. And it furthers the notion that we are at war against the terrorists that would kill our babies if it weren't for the fighting men and women we send over there.
It's all a big con job.
Each one has a due season. In one's season are the nuptuals considered and made attentive for righteousness! As due seasons do come and go, the circles will remain unbroken, by and bye Lord, bye and by!
Sippin' the kool-aid tonite are we? Get real feces for brains... you are not special, you are not loved by a creator, and you will cease to exist permanently... by and by...
The director's of Gatehouse might want to rienthk the whole outsourcing idea in light of the Satyam debacle. Many U.S. companies are reviewing the concept of offshore outsourcing in light of what is and has happened.
Religions and gods need to become extinct and they eventually will.
And maybe man too.
Desk jobs for new chaplain? Desk jobs are reserved for veteran Chaplains who have deployed repeatedly. New chaplains pack their bags and deploy within 12 months - that's the way it is.
Prayer changes things .
God has a plan.
If prayer changes things, then god didn't know the future.
So He doesn't need bucky .
Prayer is talking with God, one notable change is drawing closer to God and His knowledge. God bless
Bucky has no "need" of a non-existent mythological being.
@Bucky Ball – you are a very smart blogger. All of your responses are sharp and witty. These idiots are no match for you.
Thank you ! ...very long story, has not always been that way ... :(
~Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!
Typical religious cowboys. They know people are ripe for the picking when they are most vulnerable. They prey on the weak like a vulture to road kill. As a humanist I feel great anguish for suffering people of any kind. I care about all people, not only the ones that believe what I believe. Religion is a breeding grounds for hypocrites. They create barriers and limitations. Fancy cliche's like "Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin" , but they left one part out. It comes with contingencies.
Blessed be those ones who will no longer bide their days doing the war marches nor kettle the drums toward viles of wicked incitements of perverseness in causalities' stupified languishing militia parlors!
Challenges will be decided by the drawing of lots or numbered covering away from the pundances of warring regretffulness ideals! Tournaments of ever newer formations' pleasentries will soothe the beast in people's eyes! The goodly Conscience will be renourished with vigor and vitalities in abundant measures giving ways and rising to pleasing all for many seasons in reasoned wealthiness cleavings!
God for the Godly will ride in the backseat of Life's ongoing rush down the slopes of freedom bells ringing always and forever to never again wanting to be or become stilled travestries' lastly passing torments of distainments' warlorded conjouring ways!
funny how you'll believe every word they tell you and the world..so much for "logic","reason",and common sense to see through lies
Like it or not we are all hypocrites.Think you are better? Please you live a delusional life If you think you are better..stomp out murder.Go ahead and try.You can't.its not religion it's man as a whole.Seems like you have a hard time facing that.
Wow. "I wanted to bring Christ to the battlefield". The guys heart may be in the right place. But he's ignorant of what the bible teaches. Christ wants nothing to do with man's petty wars.
Christ cant go to the battlefield. Hes too busy helping athletes, musicians and joel osteens make millions while ignoring the impoverished masses!
Actually the idiot zombie masses supports the stars who usually end up committing suicide or overdosing..They follow them for happiness.Read the bible on the issue of money..many uneducated atheists gladly ignore what God really says about money..you also are one of the zombie followers believing every lie they create Allen
@death.. I 'm not sure what all god says about money... I do know, he can't get enough of it. He created the heaven's and the earth. But those greenbacks are expected to be created by us.
Understand this: if someone does not believe in God, that is God's will for that person; if someone believe in a false Christ, that is God's will. Chosen sinners will come to know the true Christ by God's grace and that is His will. What shall we say then? Unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? if God, willing to shew wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. If you are one of God's chosen people His word will be clear for you. He says "my sheep hears my voice"
People like you are just nuts.
You got the "sheep" part right. One of the dumbest animals on the planet and most frequently used to describe christians. Coincidence? No.
What happened to free will? You people talk in circles. To me, you literally sound crazy.
what you said is clearly hard for atheists to grasp
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
So no matter what its gods will? Meaning we have no free will? That is an excuse for horrible behavior. God does not control anything. People control whats going on and how things turn out. For example if i decide to hit some religious nut right between the legs because they wont quit coming to my door, thats my decision not gods and the resulting pain isnt gods will its my fault because i kicked someone between the legs.
@At death atheists believe, Most atheists use to drink the cool-aid. I personally spent 18 years in church and 13 years in a xtian school and am well studied in the bible, dogma and doctrine. I'm sure this frightens people like you who feel they've arrived at the final truth. Guess what, open the doors of your mind and step outside of your god box. There's a universe of reality awaiting.
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.