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.
Thanks to all who serve, of course including Chaplains :) Yours is a tough job that not many have the courage to do. Thanks for your willingness to preserve the freedoms of all, even those who mock and belittle you. Keep up the good work and know that you are appreciated. Same for military families, you have a strength and perseverance to be admired. THANK YOU!
And what about the ones who do not have a religion to cling onto? Where are their times to "decompress" while otherse attend services in deployed areas? Where are THEIR "chapplains"?
Just because some service members don't follow a religion, does not mean they should be ignored, scoffed at or denied an opportunity to get together with other like minded people and enjoy the "reverence" religious groups do in the military.
I can only count two times where I was not told to bow my head at some prayer at a military function. Which is pathetic, I do not force my lack of belief on anyone, I should not be forced to bow my head.
i'm not so sure of the message were sending by sending shepherds over their
EAT MY SHORTS
Religion is a mental illness.
Hit the nail on the head....
Ah using christianity in the military, sports, and everything else that the general public loves and supports. freaking idiots. That's a very holy looking giant metal bucket that guy is getting baptized in. lmao what a joke how desperate and hopeless and just plain undecated people are. Science is not a myth you little blinded sheep.
How is it that our tax dollars are paying for the salaries of religious leaders? Shouldn't the religious sects pay for spreading their "word"? I was in the Army pulling guard duty one Sunday. All guards were allowed to leave the duty station for a couple of hours to attend church services. When I told the Sergeant of the Guard that I was not religious but that it was just as important for me to spend time with my wife and I should be afforded the same amount of time away, he scoffed at me. Religion under attack? I think not.
I'm new...what do any of these comments have to with the article about a combat veteran chaplain and his struggles? What the article illuminates is the invisible wounds of war.
There are some posts on the article but, following the usual pattern of things here, the comments eventually focused upon the crux of all religious discussion: Is it based on reality? We have clear sides, supporters for religion, supporters of just their religion, critics of all others, and critics of all religion.
A lot of the ideas are traded very civilly, others not. Some people trade insults and threats of eternal damnation, which is sad and unproductive, in my opinion. Many non-believers and moderate believers are often shocked by the weirdness and callousness of fundamentalist, conservative believers; and the fundamentalist, conservative believers are often shocked by how their beliefs are viewed by the rest of the world.
And there are posters here, I suspect, who use straw man personas to insult both sides at the same time in addition to the people who are only interested in stirring hatred.
These same, usual people duke it out in the comment section of the most current article until the discussion putters out, and then they take it up in the next article's discussion board.
@ Cq did a good job of laying out the typical discussion format here, and is dead-on for how people respond to articles in the Belief Blog.
@ ChaplainKGW you are correct that this article is more about the "invisible wounds of war", but I think it also stirred up some issues regarding the "invisible wounds of religion". Faith has the potential to heal, but it also contains a great potential for creating separation and divisiveness.
The problem with most "religion" and specifically, religious denominations, is exclusivism. That is: my religion is better than your religion, my religion is the "true" religion, etc. If we could each learn to respect the beliefs (or even non-belief) of others, and their right to practice their associated rituals, regardless of how right or wrong they seem to us, that would go a long way to resolving much of the religious and cultural conflicts in the world. Of course it goes without saying that the practice of a particular religion must *not* infringe on the rights and freedom of others, but therein lies the rub. If your faith teaches that you *must* convert others to your own, the battle is lost and we have returned to the realm of exclusivism – a vicious circle of conflict.
Your argument is self contradictory. You argue that, in order to reduce conflict, we must move away from religious beliefs that hold to exclusive claims. But isn't that an exclusive claim? You argue that religions with exclusive claims are less valid, or inferior (in their attempt to promote peace) than religions without exclusive claims. By declaring beliefs with exclusive claims as unhelpful, or instigators of conflict, you have committed the same mistake you denounce.
Not to mention that history shows that what you claim is not airtight.
"The Greco-Roman world's religious views were open and seemingly tolerant- everyone had his or her own god. the practices of the culture were quite brutal, however. The Greco-Roman world was highly stratified economically, with a huge distance between the rich and poor. By contrast, Christians insisted that there was only one true God, the dying Savior Jesus Christ. Their lives and practices were, however, remarkably welcoming to those that the culture marginalized. The early Christians mixed people from different races and classes in ways that seemed scandalous to those around them. The Greco-Roman world tended to despise the poor, but Christians gave generously not only to their own poor but to those of other faiths...Why would such an exclusive belief system lead to behavior that was so open to others? It was because Christians had within their belief system the strongest possible resource for practicing sacrificial service, generosity, and peace-making. At the very heart of their view of reality was a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness." – Tim Keller, The Reason for God.
Jesus Christ = the power and wisdom of God.
this american idiot looks like a total fool who the Mujhaideen can't wait to blow up ha ha ha
ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS OF THIS BLOG
Memorial Day, 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
Why are we arguing on here about religion? If someone does not want to believe, then let them be. anyway, i believe that god exists. if someone (or something) can end a life, what is it? how come we die? how can there be sheer nothingness before birth and after death? anyway, to the point about public schools and religion.
the u.s. has a standing history of religious freedom. it doesnt sound reasonable to teach, lets say a muslim, about christian beliefs. they dont believe in it, so they should not be taught it. thats also my theory on science and early human history, if you dont believe in evolution, you do not have to take the class. but anyway...
i do belive though, that clubs that involve a certain faith should not be outlawed in public schools...
Wouldn't it be beneficial to have classes in comparative religion and atheism so that everyone can have an accurate understanding of what each faith believes; one that doesn't come tainted by it's rivals?
we already have that in the public schools (the religions unit mentioned by cq)
also, as i scroll down, how come i see your name (yes, you cq) everywhere, not hating but, wow.
...and if you don't believe in math, you shouldn't have to take that class; and if you find the facts of history go against your personal beliefs, you can skip that one, too. Surely you can see how quickly we would circle the drain if we encouraged young students to only study the subjects that they think they already know.
The more I think about your post, the more disturbing I find it. I can't imagine a better recipe for myopic ignorance. What kind of education only reinforces what you think you already know while carefully protecting you from new information? Why go to school at all if not to be challenged by new ideas? You're describing the exact opposite of education.
@Cq, I understand the logic, but there are so many religions and fantasies in the world, to give all of them equal time you would have to dedicate all of your time everyday to this effort. Teaching leprechauns, god, fairies, magic rainbow snake, odin, zeus, etc would take up so much time there wouldn't be room for the other more useful classes like physics or economics.
Not all equal time, just the major groups. Just enough, straight from a set curriculum so that anyone's personal bias wouldn't creep in. I think that would be useful information for future citizens to have, don't you?
You still have to take math, but there is a trend nowadays towards having freedom in how a student solves particular problems. There are alternatives, say, to using long division.
I like commenting. :-)
Speaking of hating, have you ever noticed how the "haters" on either side of things here, the supposed believers and non-believers, tend to sound eerily the same? I don't know, but is there a word for a troll who plays both sides of an argument? A kind of sockpuppet maybe?
@Cq, Well, I personally think if people want to study philosophies and religions they should either choose it as a career or study on their personal time. I don't think it should be required study.
About haters, the difference is that one group of haters is backed by evidence. So while they may appear the same on face value, they are expressions of very different origins.
The believers think they have evidence too, that's the problem. How do you convince people that "experiencing" Christ isn't really evidence of there being a Christ?
@Cq, Well, I mean "evidence" in the classical sense which is something that can be tested and produces verifiable results. Religion has not stood up to any tests to provide confirmation. One might say that believing they don't have cancer makes them feel good, and that can be an undeniable experience. But if feeling good is predicated upon the belief that they do not have cancer we must verify whether or not this is true to validate the experience. While the experience, is true that for the moment they feel good we can agree that there is no evidence to support that experience.
At which point do you decide to go from having no belief in God to having a need to convince someone else to have no belief? There is a big difference between convincing someone that you don't believe and going another step further to convince someone else to believe what you do. Can you see how this can set a precedent for the very thing you are fighting against?
People should be allowed to determine what is and what is not acceptable to believe without being forced one way or another. I truly mean that in a universal sense, inclusive of individuals that choose to not believe. Once the right to make a decision either way is taken, a person's will is infringed upon. Is it OK for any of us to force another to believe in what we choose to believe in? A forced choice is not a genuine choice for any of us.
Second, I can not accept the discount of an individual's experience. Whether you apply it to Christ or to life it often consists of an observation. A repeated observation to be specific. To eliminate the observation would eliminate truths in many areas in education including science.
On the few rare occasions a non-believer has spoke up and shared the "personal experiences" that are the basis of his/her lack of belief an understanding has been accomplished. An acceptance of what is true for that individual is still a truth. It may not coincide with what I hold true but it doesn't change what is true for him/her.
In many ways, individuals here are alike and yet our reasoning for the choices made are so vast in nature. My choice to vote as a liberal has always been to protect each person's right to choose what is best for him/her. It is a choice for me to provide the most freedom for the individual. My faith and belief apply to me while your lack of faith and belief belong to you and neither one of us have the right to force that application to humanity.
If god and jesus or any other prophet / deity are real and proven, then why don't we teach it in our public schools? Is there some sort of conspiracy to keep the truth away from the masses?
If the religious would just stop and think on why this type of thought isn't allowed in public schools they should figure it out. BECAUSE IT IS NOT REAL, PROVEN.
"Jesus always ran to crises."
Really, really, seriously! Where is that in Scripture? Sorry but I don't find it! Jesus walk, walk and walk, even over water! He stood up, sat and lie down, but running to or away from whatever have you! I just don't find it in the narrative anywhere.
Actually we [christians] are advised NOT to go running after the Fantastic claims of men (Luke 17:23).
Yuppers. That's why he went and hid when the authorities were looking for him. They just make stuff up as they go along. Whether it's true or not, has no bearing.
"Actually we [christians] are advised NOT to go running after the Fantastic claims of men"
That would include men like Moses and the other Bible story tellers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul and any others with fantastic claims of supernatural beings and events.
Actually, none ran to Moses, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul. Some did run to Jesus, though Not for the right reasons and not the right people. So your knowledge of Scripture is very flawed in the best case.
The Nation of Israel is still around in spite of all. So gathering around Moses does Not appears as the wrong thing done. The claims of Jesus and the narrative of Moses and the apostles are Fantastic but a Fantasy only to unbelievers like you of course. For the rest of us believers, they are Awesome, Great, Fantastic and believing Jesus Claims, deeds and Scriptures is called FAITH.
And of course many ran to Jesus for the right reasons and were the right kind of people.
when will grown ups step away from imaginary friends?
If there's a God, why hasn't he destroyed the Vatican?
Maybe because it looks like the US capitol! :-)
Anyways HE is in NOT in the business of Destroying silly stuff. Though eventually in due time, HE will do away with everything. HE is rather in the business of building, re-building, creating, re-creating, administering and managing HIS CREATION.
You'd think he would have designed his creation a whole lot better. Too many diseases, too many parasites, too many weak points and convoluted organization in our bodies for them to have been designed by an "intelligent" designer.
Yes, cq, "God" gets a barely passing grade in human body design. In "the wild" humans live for an average of maybe 40 years. Even without a 12,000,000,000 IQ, men have figured out how to make things better.
Left to "God" we'd still be performing his vaunted cure for leprosy:
In Leviticus 14 "God" spoke to Moses and told him the correct treatment and cure for leprosy. It is the dangedest, silliest thing you'd ever want to read. This was the LORD speaking, THE LORD – how dare anyone search for a better treatment!
Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one. Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly away. Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient's right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally find another pair of birds. Kill one and dip the live bird in the dead bird's blood. Wipe some blood on the patient's right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle the house with blood 7 times. That's all there is to it. Saith THE LORD.
Throwing bird blood around sounds like a great way to spread salmonella.
@Bizarre and CQ... Yeah, god is a pretty crappy designer. I mean first of all, if I'm god, the first thing i do away with is entropy. Talk about limited foresight. Then if I really loved humans, I would fix the eye so it isn't built backward, add the full spectrum of light including the ultraviolet and radio wavelengths.
The fact that we can think up so many ways to improve our design has led us to invent things like superheroes and gods. Even God himself is nothing more than an ideal for the perfect, all-powerful superman.
@Cq, We agree.
We were once a great nation for nearly 200 years and built by Theistic beliefs, and now since the 60-70's and the rise of secular humanism in our classrooms we are now a mess. We spend Billions in the search for life on other planets in the hope it may prove we don't need God while the world starves!!
We removed God and the Bible from the classrooms and replaced it with hopelessness!! How many kids killed each other before the rise of Atheistic Secular Humanism? Now they kill, and who are the victems in many cases? Christians!
The Bible told us there would be an Apostacy or Falling Away before the end. You simply prove it to us.
Yeah, with going to the moon,
finding new cures for diseases,
finding better ways to connect with each other,
being on the frontiers of knowledge,
that's terrible. If that is humanism, stay the course.
How many kids killed each other before the rise of Atheistic Secular Humanism?
Well, I see, the devil certainly killed your English skills, along with erthin' else.
We read Genesis when we were on the moon, now we have lost God and we need private companies to help us...
OK Leo, let's play the persecuted christian game shall we? Let's see we have:
Bibles in every motel room
God on our money
Moments of silence (prayer) before public events
Christian cable networks 24/7
Discounts on insurance for being christian
Churches every 6 blocks in every city over 100,000
Christian bookstores in every town over 12,000
God in The Pledge of Allegiance
Christian billboards along the highway advertising Vacation Brainwashing School (VBS) for your children
Federally recognized Christian holiday
Religious organizations are tax free
75% of the population claims to be Christian
National day of prayer
God in the National Anthem
Please, take the persecuted christian whine line somewhere else.
in those 200 years you speak of were not great...you forget that:
Women had no rights
Blacks were slaves
People were not equal
People were not informed of facts, only speculation and what mom and dad said was true (brainwash)
Half of our founding fathers were agnostic or atheist
leave it to arrogant christians to claim a Christian Nation, when it isn't, and was never suppose to be
... leaving from work now, so thats all i have at the moment without any googling.
Or we can trace our decline to the rise of fundamentalism, home schooling and anti-evolution bias.
Exactly, Sue, you beat me to it. As long as we are assuming correlation is causation (as Leo is), we cannot disregard the fact that the timing of the decline of our great nation (as Leo claims) corresponds exactly to the rise of the Born Again Christian movement?
Leo, go fuck yourself, you belligerent, assinine old fundiot. And that's probably the only action you'll get, frontwards or backwards.
@Leo, Well it looks like everyone else already spa.nked you but I would like to ask you how you account for the very successful secular countries all over the world? I happen to live in one of them, Tokyo Ja.pan. No bible in the school and we're almost crime free. 13million people in ONE city and more commuting everyday... 5 yr old kids ride the trains daily alone and never 1 kidnapped. We suffered one of the greatest tragedies in human history last year... looting? no. Stealing? no. Bad news for you, new studies show that religious societies have more crime and are less benevolent. But why would care about things like facts and numbers when you can rely on your brilliant personal philosophy?
I don't HATE anyone. In fact, I bet i'm a thousand times more tolerant than you. I'm not here to spread 'hate'. What I hate is what religion does to society as a whole. I hate the separation. See, we could be best friends in another life... one without god. We are separated because of it. This is a minuscule example of what religion does. Thank goodness this crap has been pulled out of our public schools. No, Christianity and other religions are not 'under attack', its just getting put away, where it should be. Just do some research, religion is slowly fading because now people don't have to believe what they hear, they can look it up themselves. This is the age of information. No longer are people restricted to information due to their geography. The more informed the world gets, the farther from religion we will get. That's a fact. Wait and see.
You think religion is to blame for all the world's ills?
You haven't been paying attention, I see.
Read a book, dude. Find a clue somewhere.
Hmm, i re-read my post, and i don't recall seeing anything about blaming religion for all of the world's ills. You sure you read the right post? Head over to Nick Jr.com, the reading comprehension is much easier to understand.
Bless the soldiers who do what they are told.
said Martin Bormann to the Nuremberg Court.
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.