Too often, the media and movies are the
sole means by which people’s perceptions of
war are formed, fed, shaped and cemented.
But such romanticized, Hollywood-style
portrayals are usually miles from the
realities of life on the battlefield, a
chaplain and longtime military member
‘War isn’t glorious,’ retired Maj. Leslie
Haines said during a workshop she conducted
Saturday at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2305
S. Canfield-Niles Road (state Route 46).
‘What we do is hard; we never forget the
first time we take someone’s life.’
The Fort Wayne, Ind., woman, who served
33 years in the Army, including one tour of
duty each in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, led
the seven-hour seminar, ‘Binding the Wounds
of War.’ The program’s primary aim was to
provide tools for others to help veterans ‘“
especially those who have served in Iraq and
Afghanistan ‘“ make easier transitions to
civilian life and being back with their
Haines, executive director of a Fort
Wayne-based organization called Lutheran
Military Veterans & Families Ministries
Inc., noted that even though less than 1
percent of the U.S. population has served in
the military, service personnel have a
disproportionately high incidence of
suicide, high-risk behaviors, stress and
For example, the suicide rate among
soldiers has steadily risen and surpassed
that of civilians by more than 20 percent
since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In 2015, the combined rate for National
Guard members and Reservists was 23 percent
higher than in 2014, she noted.
In addition, about four in 10 women and
one in 10 men suffer some form of sexual
trauma in the military, a situation in which
the victim and perpetrator usually know each
other and that more often goes unreported,
she said. In rare instances, females are the
perpetrators, she noted.
Barriers to reporting the crime include
the military’s high emphasis on loyalty and
cohesion, a taboo against divulging negative
information about a peer and a desire to
remain strong and fit in, Haines continued.
She added that violent sexual crimes by
soldiers increased about 64 percent between
2006 and 2011.
Soldiers who have served in Iraq and
Afghanistan often face depression and
similar hardships, but also have unique
challenges on the battlefield. Those include
suicide bombings, civilians being used as
human shields and decoys, no discernible
recovery time, extreme weather conditions
and indirect threats, such as improvised
explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs and
snipers, Haines explained.
Another daunting aspect of military life
is the cycle of deployment and redeployment,
partly because family members typically are
‘Too often, it’s ‘ÀúHow’s John doing?’
and not ‘ÀúHow are you doing?’’ she said. ‘I
think families have it worse.’
Higher-than-average rates of child abuse
and divorce are seen in many families in
which a loved one undergoes multiple
deployments, Haines explained.
Also, children of military families have
higher rates of alcoholism and an increase
in attempted suicide, compared with their
civilian counterparts. Additionally, they
sought outpatient mental-health care twice
as often in 2008 than at the start of the
war in Iraq in early 2003, she said.
‘The more deployments, the worse it
gets,’ Haines said.
A first step toward helping veterans and
their families heal from their wounds and
readjust to civilian life is being aware of
what not to say to them. People should
refrain from trivializing a soldier’s
experiences, claiming they understand the
person’s plight, encouraging the soldier to
‘stop dwelling on it’ and expressing concern
that the person might ‘snap,’ Haines noted.
It’s imperative that clergy members,
health-care professionals, educators,
caregivers and others allow those returning
from war to share their feelings and stories
while actively and nonjudgmentally listening
to them. Also crucial is developing a better
understanding of military culture, in which
positive traits such as hard work,
camaraderie, orderliness, teamwork,
conformity and trust usually co-exist with
negative ones that include loneliness,
boredom, a loss of individuality and a sense
of being expendable, Haines told her
‘You’ve got to connect all the dots if
you want to help someone physically or
mentally,’ she stressed.
Perhaps just as importantly, regardless
of one’s resilience or sense of duty, it’s
important to recognize that those who
re-enter civilian life come back altered and
scarred in some way.
‘We leave a piece of ourselves over
there, and we never get that piece back,’
Haines said. ‘No one comes back the same.’