A veteran comes home, only to be let down by his country. Again.

Photo: Peter Van Agtmael
Photo: Peter Van Agtmael

I was reading TIME magazine this last week when I came upon a disturbing article.

The article was about the heroic US Marine Sergeant David Lindley.

He was a war vet, a sort of hero that had returned from Iraq, but that wasn’t the case anymore.

An untreated case of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) took him from 17 years in the uniform to 16 years behind bars. His PTSD took him so far off his old life path that it almost ended with a firefight between Lindley and the Chicago Police Department.

At some point Lindley snapped, put on his full camouflage uniform, loaded his rifle and sat on his household rooftop ready for a fight.

The TIME article, written by Mark Thomps (which you can read in its entirety here) reveals the rest of the sad story of what occurred back in 2006.

The events of that fateful September day, the tours of combat, even what Lindley is experiencing now all recorded for the reading. But it is not just one man’s sad story. Along with the tragic tale are facts about the great mistreatment of U.S. veterans. Stats like this:

Roughly 20% of the 2.5 million men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD or other mental illnesses.

About 125000 people are suffering and almost nothing is being done about it.

“I’ve seen a psychiatrist about every six months for 30 minutes, which is absolutely useless. I have received no treatment for PTSD at all – nothing.” – David Lindley

When I read these words my heart broke.

Why does this keep happening?

Why are these men and women being neglected on a constant basis?

And I say “keep happening” because this isn’t the first time this has happened.

In 1982, a blockbuster movie about a Vietnam War Vet hit the big screen starring Sylvester Stallone. Audiences across the globe followed the story of one John Rambo. He had recently returned from combat and was on his way home.

For those of you that have seen it, do you remember how the local sheriff treated him in that movie?

He threw Rambo out of town, verbally abused him, did everything in a sheriff’s power to see that Rambo was not helped, accepted or loved in any way.

Obviously this was a piece of fiction, but it very much mirrored the sad reality of the United States. No one was helping those that desperately needed it after they suffered through the traumatic events of war. Whether that war was Vietnam or Iraq, whether they agreed with going to war or not.

Now I could quickly make this an attack on psychiatrists, seeing as David Lindley, even John Rambo, were sorely in need of real mental health treatment; for longer than half an hour every half a year.

I could make this an attack on soldiers and how they shouldn’t be going off to war. I could talk about war only bringing about destruction and death, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

But I won’t.

Rather I want to ask us this question.

What can we do to keep this from happening again?

Especially as Christians, there has got to be something that we can do to help these people that are broken, suffering and in need of unconditional love.

Christians are alive with the love of Christ, we have been made whole by the shed blood of Jesus. What can we offer this man, or the thousands of men and women that have given their lives, even to death, for us and our children?

The best thing that we can do is love them.

Simple and to the point, love them.

Whether you agree with what they did, what their occupation is, what their position on war is, as Christians we need to be loving these people.

As Jesus said in Matthew,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’ (Matthew 9:12-13 NIV).”

Often Jesus would go and feast with  the sinners. Whether it was tax collectors, prostitutes, or other sinners, Jesus purposefully made time for the people that were broken, hurting and needing love.

He would give of his time and energy to be with them. He sacrificed so that they could be shown real love in a way that was helpful, constructive, and easily understood.

What can we do to keep this neglect and abuse from happening to the veterans again?

Love them by being there for them.

Spend time with them. Invite them out for a coffee or a movie. Engage in their world. Be their friend.

That was how Jesus did it. That’s where He started. He was present with them in their time of need.

I think this is a good and sensible way to show the love of Christ to the veterans in our communities.

I realize that this is not a substitute for medication and professional mental health, but this helps the soul.

Be there with them now. Not after they have snapped like David Lindley or Rambo did, but now. Show them a real incarnate love like Jesus did.

Love them by being there.

Slowly and surely, we will see and hear less stories like this one about David Lindley, and more about a people helping those in need.

Shalom.

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