Last year, our family lived in Carlisle, PA while my husband attended the Army War College. He is active duty Air Force and had the privilege of being invited to attend this prestigious program with his fellow Army, Navy, and Marine armed service members.
Over the year, we listened to a number of stories of those lost in active duty. We became friends with people whom have served and led on the front lines. I listened as spouses recounted the stress and strain they endured as they waited and wondered if their warrior would return home alive. I listened as they talked of not one, not two, but five year-long deployments that were threatening to tear the families apart. I learned of their friends who had taken their lives in the aftermath of their time in “the desert” – every day reliving the atrocities to which they had born witness. I watched as those who bear the cross on their uniform and the share the Good News of Jesus suffered under the strains of PTSD.
We are an Air Force family. My husband actively serves. He has deployed a number of times, at most for a year. He has flown in enemy air and landed on enemy soil. And, we have sacrificed for our country. But, we have been somewhat shielded from the extreme conditions so many of our fellow Army service members and families have endured. Don’t get me wrong, the Air Force has suffered great loss, too. I can think of friends who have lost loved ones and dear friends both in “the desert” and in the air. We suffer too. We remember those in our ranks who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
But, for whatever reason, our family has served more than one Joint Base assignment. Which means that we have lived and worked among personnel across all branches of the armed forces for 6 of the past 12 years. And, in my opinion, the Army has given and lost the most.
I ache today for them. I ache for my chaplain friend who is soon to report to a base where two mass shootings have taken place within one year of another. He suffers from PTSD for time served. I ache for my sweet friend who lost her husband while he was deployed and now uses her grief and faith to come alongside and comfort others who are suffering. I ache for my sweet Army wife friends who feel others don’t understand their suffering and pain, who are beyond weary facing yet another deployment. I ache for the Army as a whole as we read again and again the reality of suicides, homicides, and mass shootings in their midst.
I am tender to all those who have lost a loved one due to war – whether it is on the battlefield or as a result of the fallout. But, for whatever reason and of which I have a very difficult time explaining, my heart is with my Army friends today.
You have suffered too much. You have suffered more than any one group of people should have to suffer. Gather together and love one another in your grief. Bear one another’s burdens and together you can stand. You are not forgotten. I remember the exhaustion on your faces when we met over a year ago. I remember thinking of all you have carried for our country. I remember thinking of the sacrifices your children have given, of all they have been asked to endure. You Army spouses are some of the strongest and most courageous ones out there.
I invite you to consider this today:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15)
“Part of what it means to share in Christ’s suffering is to share in the suffering of those whom Christ loves. You participate in Christ’s sufferings by sharing the pain with those who suffer, not only fellow Christians, but people anywhere in the world who are hurting. You participate in Christ’s suffering when you come alongside the hurting and offer them the blessing of presence. You participate in Christ’s suffering when you weep with those who weep. You participate in Christ’s sufferings when you die to yourself so that you can fully enter into the pain and suffering of another person.
You may never be more Christlike that when you participate in the sufferings and sorrows of a hurting world, wrestling with the pain and providing the comfort of community. Christ set the pattern: death, then rebirth; dying, then living again; suffering, then consolation. As you model the life of Christ in ministry to others, you become Christ to hurting people.
Jesus called his followers to pattern their lives after his, and that pattern includes dignifying pain and suffering. Pain is real, it hurts, and it matters. Rather than minimizing or denying the hurt, Christians are most like Christ when they enter into the pain of those who are suffering – not to be weighted down or consumed by it, but to help bear the burden. Jesus says that when you provide care in his name to the least of his brothers or sisters, you are having compassion on him (Matthew 25:31-40). So when you care for those in need, you are offering a doubly powerful witness to the presence of Christ in the world – Christ alive in you and in the one to whom you are offering care.” (Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who are Suffering, Kenneth C. Haugk, Ph.D., pp. 33-34)
I know there are many for whom this Memorial Day is not a happy one. I am so sorry for your loss. I grieve with you today. You are not forgotten.