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.
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.
Christ on the battlefield? What a MORON. THOU SHALT NOT KILL. And even THAT is negotiable for you hypocrites. RELIGION IS THE TRUE ABOMINATION OF THIS PLANET!
Your an idiot...
said the man who doesn't know your from you're
Otay, you is an idiot! Is that better???
Actually, the verse says "You shall not murder." Killing in the defense of the innocent and helpless is not murder. Cheers!
Actually it would have been written in hebrew and the order of the words would have been "you shall murder not". That is if you beleave that a god wrote it to begin with. There are no tablets to verify this story. I hear that there are some very nice tours to the top of Mount Sinai. Wonderful veiws from up there. It's a very popular tourist destination now. No signs of a god though.
Religious moderators are in full force today.
What is this China News Network?
Notice how any comment made against religion eventually gets deleted. I find it humorous because that proves how you people can't handle logic. I never swore or violated ANY CNN rules, yet my posts are deleted.
You people should be ashamed to call yourselves Americans. You violated my First Amendment rights as a human, and as an American. You proved my point...
Don't get your panties in a twist, PantyRaid, there is an automatic word filter here.
Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
cu-nt.....as in Scu-nthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
p-orn… as in p-ornography
pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
Here another example of religion controlling weak minds...
Really? Some of the most dynamic, intelligent, and interesting people I met in the Marines. From a secular (and logical) point of view; one is just as much a fool to claim to know for a fact that there is no God as is the person who claims to know for a fact that there is. The point is; no one can know without 20/20 hindsight. And anyone with that kind of hindsight is no longer around to attest one way or another.
@Jon Do you know for a fact that the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, or unicorns, or spagetti monsters don't exist? Until we are presented with some real evidence, not just "faith", gods don't exist. And even if they did, I would then have to determine if they are worthy of my prays. And a god or gods that says worship me or burn is not worthy.
Peter had to go through his own time of disciple training, even denying Christ 3 times after He was captured, but then he shook up and gave perhaps the greatest sermon of all time after receiving the gift of God the Holy Spirit 43 days later. After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he disappeared for 2-3 years before beginning his powerful ministry in which he wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else. Christ followers cannot neglect their own personal relationship with Jesus. When Jesus boiled it all down to 2 commandments, the first is the most important, that you learn to love God with all your heart and mind. When you learn how to love and trust God with all your heart, to get filled up with His Living Water every day, then you do not run dry yourself, you have His Love to share with all your neighbors, to point the way to Him for all of them. May God greatly bless this chaplain's ministry with the soldiers and their families.
"... Darren Turner wanted to bring Christ onto the battlefield ..." I hope you gave Jesus a gun? Hey clueless, militaristic, Christian religious zealots, I don't think Christ would approve of humanity's politically motivated, senseless killing. I think he even wrote something against it in his "Thou shalt not" notes!
There was no god, there is no god and there never will be a god.
So says the fool in his heart.
I just did by saying it.
One is just as much a fool to claim to know for a fact that there is no God as is the person who claims to know for a fact that there is. The point is; no one can know without 20/20 hindsight. And anyone with that kind of hindsight is no longer around to attest one way or another.
Voice of Reason is wrong!!!! There have been thousands of Gods... all of them equally valid to their followers!!
Wait. He was upset because his religion had morphed into something that told people to be "nice guys?" The horror!
Enjoy your heroic dreams, chaplain.
That pretty much sums it up....
Maybe Eldredge was being sarcastic. If he was serious, his idea was one of the dumbest things I've read in awhile.
the damage done in war is far greater then any person can imagine-as it tears away the fabric of your soul-it rips through your psyche-alters your perception of self-self value-and those around you who stayed behind. It damages your ego-brings inner conflict-builds a division inside your center-you build walls around your self as you cant combat what you have seen,heard,smelled-feared and lived in each day.
War is hell-is an excellent manner to describe its utter brutality and the long lasting battle lay ahead of any survivor!
Some claim that PTSD is not real-it is these individuals who are clueless. PTSD is very real-and you may never overcome it-even after 40 years. I never stepped foot in any battle, in any combat zone-but I relive certain events weekly in my sleep
that disturbed my psyche.The unit I was assigned to in West Germany had seen several back to back tours in Vietnam and brought back their horrors of war with them.Some filmed the events,some recorded on cassette the sounds of war-others took pictures and some screamed at night-fighting their personal horrors,many took their own lives.
I saw enough horror in their eyes and voices that it shattered my soul.
So as anyone who has not witnessed any variety of war-or been in close relations with combat survivors who discount their horrors-you need to stop-reach out a helping hand.
War turns the nicest person into a lost soul-who can act out in anger-out of fear.
I give my heartfelt thanks to all those who serve-and prayers to all the families and only ask them to do their best-do not give up on your loved ones! You are all they have! Be strong for them!
We need rulers, which deserve this song:
1.I was glad when they said unto me : We will go into the house of the Lord.
2.Our feet shall stand in thy gates : O Jerusalem.
3.Jerusalem is built as a city : that is at unity in itself.
4.For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord : to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord.
5.For there is the seat of judgement : even the seat of the house of David.
6.O pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love thee.
7.Peace be within thy walls : and plenteousness within thy palaces.
8.For my brethren and companions' sakes : I will wish thee prosperity.
9.Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God : I will seek to do thee good.
God's people are all those who believe in Jesus; they consti.tute the Israel of God as Paul makes clear. God rejected the physical nation of Israel and physical Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
you could probably buy a wooden ruler and have that inscribed on it. Other than that, it's a very bad idea.
He came home feeling sorry for hisself; its not easy being behind the front lines in an air condition office; came back to the states dumped his wife; and took a job at home depot..............soon he figured out that home depot does not pay well; and he missed his pusss............so he gets back with her; and goes back to the army...........yes; i can do this!!!
you are pretty disgusting Nathan- you need to quit putting the soldiers down-they gave their lives so you can sit here at home ranting nonsense
There are atheists in foxholes. Google Pat Tillman. Now there's a hero.
Also we taxpayers should not be paying the wages of military chaplains. If the christian fighters want religious counseling they should get it on their own time with their own money.
Don't know a thing about pat tllman's religion, but he made some god-awful decisions which cost hom his life.
Amen ! woops! VERILY!
Spread your atheism religion poison somewhere else...
and if you want your freedom, you should go overseas and fight for it!
Atheists challenged the Chaplain Corps' existence in the Supreme Court, and lost.
Move on. Get over it. Get over yourself.
one supreme court decision is NOT the end of anything. They are all old and catholic, (for the most part)..100 years from now it will NOT stand
ever hear of Dread Scott ?
haha, If you can't beat them, join them. Welcome the Humanist (Atheist) Chaplins to our military.
So you people saying the atheists should leave this forum seemed to forget that this is open to the public and your not the moderators. If you want a blog without atheists, I suggest you start one or look elsewhere.
Pat Tillman was an Atheist that had a budding pro football carrier, but joined the Army after 9/11 and served several tours as a Army Ranger in Afganistan. He was killed in Afganistan and awarded a Silver Star. That you would chose to say, "he made some god-awful decisions which cost hom his life". on memorial day weekend is a terrible disservice to a Veterans and Patriots everywhere.
@paul I'm an atheist, a veteran, and was mobilized for Desert Storm in 1990. You don't sound like a vet to me, so my suggestion to you is
"if you want your freedom, you should go overseas and fight for it!"
Don't be a Christian unless you are willing to follow Jesus' teachings which is PEACE and non-aggression. If you want to go to war, prey to the Gods of the ancient Greeks, to Satan or the Devil. But Christ was against war and you are the biggest hypocrite if you want his help to massacre other human beings. I hope this idiot gets his punishment from God.
Funny how tons of wars were started in the name of Peace-loving Jesus. The Crusades a long time ago, Westboro Chruch now. No one truly listens.
I love when totally clueless people try to quote on the Bible... What do you do with verses that say "God is Warrior", or King David – you know that Jesus guy was named after him – the Son of David – said God trains my hand for war.
Christians are not pacifists...
St. Augustine said in Letter 189 to Boniface, that Christians could fight, not in self defense, but only out of love for neighbor, to defend them.
America: Godlessness within thy palaces.
"who suggests that American men have abandoned the stuff of heroic dreams, aided by a Christianity that tells them to be 'nice guys.'" , Turner was inspired.
This is a general problem of today that socalled Christians are mostly merely nominal Christians, and don't practice, what is preached to them.
I guess, a great problem of our time is that our leaders have become totally secular (godless, profane). This is valid not only for Europe or the US, but for the whole world. Our current leaders are no more concerned about the happiness of their people (this would be there proper, core task), but merely interested in big tax revenue. They regard their peoples as cash cows, and live a life of luxury, which they finance by the tax revenues. These rulers are neither interested in Islam nor Christianity, but merely in their own material benefit and wealth. They sell all ethics for dollars.
I guess, if no pious, powerful ruler (a kind of emperor) emerges, which makes us get rid of the egoistic, current rulers, Christ himself will return and exterminate them and cut them to pieces (the heavenly Christ is the only one, who has the right to do such a thing).
Strictly speaking, there are no social developments, but merely decisions of the administrations or rulers. Everything depends on the will of some persons/individuals of the administration. If our current rulers would decide that our daily life should become more Christian, it would become more Christian, but they do the opposite. The media are contaminated with se-x and crime and blasphemy and superficial stupidity. This is the will of our current rulers, otherwise they would finish that.
What I mean is that the current, godless societies nearly force the individual to be a nominal Christian. Everybody knows that it has become nearly impossible to live as a faithful Christian in our current societies. It has become so bad that one should ponder, if he goes to the wilderness like John the Baptist and lives as an ascetic.
We live in a horrifying time.
Thank the founding fathers of ths country for the seperation of church and state. Could you imagine a nutcase like Rainer Braendlein appointing himself emperor?
"He’d enrolled in seminary in 2004 at Regent University in Virginia, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson." Pat Robertson is a joke.
a quick to become an army officer; with good pay;
Although I'm no fan of Pat Robertson, it *is* a regionally accredited seminary. AND it's not quick. It's 3 years of graduate school after college, plus at least 2 years of ministry experience afterwords before even applying to the Army to be a Chaplain.
Really amazing the people out there who think all the immoralities in the world are caused by religion.
The truth is that morality/immorality (right/wrong) doesn't exist if God does not exist.
One of the dilemmas for atheists, a basis for morality.
Way to go, SciGuy.
The guy is living one great big delusion. He tries to connect what are ordinary every day problems to someone else to some sort of religious experience for himself. Religion cannot exist without delusion so he just needs to open his eyes to the real world and deal with it. Jesus, God, the bible, none of those things will help – its up to him if he ever gets any common sense.
You do not need a god to be right or wrong. Prove it if you do.
"The truth is that morality/immorality (right/wrong) doesn't exist if God does not exist."
And your evidence for this is?
So I would need someone to tell me what is right and wrong? Let's see, I know I don't want people to steal from me, kill me, etc. But someone needs to tell me that other people don't want that to happen either? Well nope, I have the cognitive ability to understand that other people want to be treated the same as I want to be treated. Unfortunate for you that you don't share my intelligence.
Not really, you just say it is. Not a dilemma for me at all.
Sorry, Helena, let me clarify: one of the dilemmas for thinking atheists, a basis for morality.
Take an Anthro course fool. The origins of morality are NOT in religion. It's not a problem for atheism.
The concept of right, wrong, and even law was around long before any of the religions of Abraham. Please think before you speak. you make yourself look foolish unnecessarily.
Poplulation explosion is coming and if people dont stop reproducing, we will be in aggricultural termoil in a few short years. Maybe we shoul.d embrace gay marriage; it has to be built into our dna; or gods will. I know in my heart that jesus says LOVE EVERONE UNCONDITIONALLY! make exceptions for everyone. DONT MURDER ANYONE.!!!!
I agree with you about allowing gay marriage, but even if more states did, there would still be
people around because gays and lesbians can reproduce too(although in a different way). There
probably way too many of us on the Earth anyway! Over a billion in China and India alone! That's crazy!
whatever makes you feel better during hard times........
People choose an idol who was TOTALLY anti-war and pray to him to help them kill the enemy. How stupid can you be? If he exists he will punish you for assuming that he would help you to do evil things.
this is my problem with people like John Eldridge that Darren fell in love with reading at RT Seminary. Eldridge is all about the "man's man" has to hunt, shoot things, etc... Christ did do dangerous things in his context, but never did he advocate for war.
You watched too much TV. The Crusades were chiefly caused by the bad Catholic popes of the Dark Age. A true Christian or Protestant would never promote crusades.
The Roman Catholic Church is a completely distorted Christian Church, which does not act according to the will of Jesus Christ, but according to the will of Satan.
Not to mention the Crusades were only a response to the all-out execution of Christians by the hands of Muslims.
Certainly, during the Muslim Conquests in the 7th century plenty of guiltless Christians were murdered by the Islamic armies, but that did not justify the Crusades some centuries later.
Turkey was a Christian country not long ago (up to the 15th century), but that would not justify to attack Turkey today.
The only legitimate war against a Muslim state would be a defensive war, if a Western country would be attacked by a Muslim country.
...but would if IS NO satan! That's just it! What if everything in"the good book" is just a man made
collection of stories to ease people's fears about life and death. That what I think the Bible and religion
is just made up stuff by "wise" old men to keep us obedient, and no to question anything for ourselves.
I'm more in line with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution-that we CAME FROM THE APES!! Just look at
how people treat each other around the world.
Just keep on changing history to fit your standards. Pretend it didn't happen, bravo!
"Wanting to bring Christ onto the battlefield" is exactly the problem here. These wars were started based on lies by a lot of Christian fundamentalist generals who wanted a new Crusade – and so they have it.
I long for the day when all these supposed "Christians" remember that Christ tried to teach us NOT to kill...
Wow. Just wow. Right, it was Christians who flew planes into the buildings.
Last I checked it was Iraqi's who did it either.
the lies are spread by our leaders-the generals only carry out orders-
lies by our government
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.