The Vietnam Vet came to our Chaplains table, his shoulders slumped, his deep green eyes troubled and hurting. He stood for a moment looking over our selection of books and Bibles. He looked at me, taking a deep breath he said "I know what the Bible and God says about salvation and getting to heaven, but..." he paused, struggling to find the words "if those three men I killed are not in heaven...." "I don't want to be there." His eyes watered.
The hurt and pain that came from those statements were crushing. I was not sure how to help him. I said a quick prayer asking God for His words of healing.
Taking a deep breath I asked "where you protecting the men on your squad when you fired?" "Yes" came the hesitant reply. "Where you following orders?" "Yes." "Did you save lives when you fired?" "Yes." "So, from what you told me you were doing what you had been trained and ordered to do. You did not deliberately set out to kill." "that's true" he replied.
"In the eyes of the military, our government, and your squad mates your were doing what needed to be done. Lets take a look at how God would see what you did."
"First of all it is Gods responsibility to get men and women into to heaven, when you take that on your shoulders, you take it out of God's hands. Second, God understands that there will be war, that there will be soldiers who kill other soldiers, He knows the pain this causes'. In the Old Testament we can look at King David who was a warrior and a Commander-in-Chief. David was responsible for many kills, yet God called him "a man after His (God's) own heart". When they talked about the kills that David had in battle, the Hebrew word that was used means "a killing justified in Gods eyes" but, when the Bible talks about the murder that David committed late in his life it is described as "a killing not Justified by God". There is a big difference in God's eye between murder and killing in battle. God understands a warriors heart, it is His responsibility to bring the men and women killed in battle into His kingdom. We cannot hold onto what is Gods responsibility."
The Veteran looked at me and said "that all makes sense, I cannot make a decision right now, I have to think about this."
A teammate and I prayed with him and he left. For the next two years I often wondered if had he found the peace he was searching for or had be become one the 22. My wait was over when a smiling Veteran approached me, his eyes sparkled, he held his head high, "do you remember me? We talked two years ago. You told me how God views Veterans, I read all the material you gave me many times and though about what you said. Then I took a chance, I put it all in God's hands, I said here you take it." His eyes smiled "God took it all, I have been free ever since. I just wanted to thank you."
It has been many years since I first encountered the Vet, he has helped many others find the peace that only God can bring. Each year at Stand Down I look forward knowing I will see his smiling face. I have realized that in the times we don't know what to say or do, that we need to rely on the Lord the most.
To each Veteran and family member who is dealing with PTSD or the affects of war, do not give up. There is help.