After about 3 years and some change I have completed my Masters of Arts in Military History with a concentration in World War II at American Military University. Today I learned the results of my comprehensive exams which I took last Tuesday. I “Passed with Distinction.” That was very satisfying because I did work hard all the way through the program which I began about a year after I finished the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and my Doctor of Ministry in 2005. I finished with a 4.0 GPA and will officially graduate in Washington D.C. on February 15th.
The program was pretty grueling and to refresh my brain I began to take and re-write various research papers or essays that I had written during the program and posted them on this site. I found that in doing so I improved what I had written and was able to really refresh my knowledge even as I added more information to the posts or otherwise reworked them. Doing this has given me inspiration to begin writing on new topics in history dealing with military history and theory, church history and religious liberty, including the freedom of conscience, historical theology as well as baseball and my own story of my tour in Iraq and subsequent struggle with PTSD. Some of these articles and essays are posted throughout this site. I hope to turn at least some of this into books at a later date. If you happen to be a publisher, literary agent or know one please let me know.
One thing that I have enjoyed is having others comment on my work, some even to criticize it. I found that the criticism was sometimes not just of the work but of me for enunciating opinions that are contrary to theirs. Terms like “traitor” “unbeliever” and “heretic” have been used to describe me by some. I have found that if you don’t want criticism of your work don’t write. If doesn’t matter what the subject is, whether you are liberal or conservative, Christian or something else that there will be someone who will take issue with either your work or you. I have learned that depending on the type of criticism I can take it seriously, lightly or blow it off, but I am learning not to take it personally. Heck, most critics don’t know me from Adam so what do they know. People who know me on the other hand I do try to listen to and if I am wrong, misinterpreted or wrote something that I really didn’t want to come out the way that it did to be generally civil to my critics and treat them with respect. I think only once or twice I replied to people in a snarky way. I am not afraid to mix it up with someone, see the comments ton my post on A Christian Defense of the Rights of Moslems in a Democracy but try never to demean the person by name calling, stereotyping or vilifying their position but sticking to the facts and hoping to build a bridge of reconciliation even if we cannot come to agreement. On the other hand there are a few individuals and groups that I have been somewhat sarcastic or hard in dealing with, but only because they open themselves up to it by, to use a baseball metaphor, throwing at the other teams’ batters. I figure if they want to throw at people then I can throw at them. Since fair is fair I would imagine that some of these kind folks are praying for me using “impreccatory prayers.” Oh well.
Anyway, a couple of other things. Today we hosted LTC Dave Grossman a leading expert on the effects of combat and killing on the human body, mind and spirit. Dave has written the books On Killing and On Combat. He is highly sought after works heavily with military, police and emergency services personnel as well as those in the psychiatric, psychological and chaplain/clergy fields. The seminar was well attended by a diverse audience of physicians, nurses, psychologists, chaplains, social workers, counselors, corpsmen and others. I met him late last night when his plane came in, picked him up this morning and took him back to the airport before coming back to the medical center for the rest of my on-call shift.
The first time that I met Dave was a EOD Group Two where we hosted him about a year and a half ago. At the time I was in the middle of my post deployment PTSD crack up. Everything was setting me off, the Great Dismal Swamp was burning, visibilities were down to half a mile, the sky was “Iraqi Sandstorm Brown” and smelled like the burn pits that litter that country. Every sound, loud noise, jet aircraft, especially F-18s, helicopters and sudden move was sending me back to Iraq. We hosted Dave as I said and he was most gracious during his presentation then, but his subject matter send me down hard back then. It was after that seminar that our Diving Medical Officer looked at me and asked “Chaplain are you okay?” To which I had to say no, I was crashing and it was really difficult. I’m doing better now and while some of Dave’s presentation did affect me, it was not to the extent of last year. I held together and realized that I will get through this, that I will be stronger for what I have gone through and hopefully be able to help others who have suffered the same or worse. While I was in Iraq I was “in the zone” and it was coming home to a world that didn’t seem to understand what I had experienced, what I had learned and at least initially didn’t seem to care for me or value what I did that sent me down.
Today made me realize that I am doing better. I’m not where I want to be. I still have great problems with sleep and some issues with anxiety as well as some flashbacks, dreams and nightmares, but not like they were even a year to 9 months ago.
So, not much else for the night. I’m praying that I don’t get a 0230 or 0300 page and that I get 4-5 hours of sleep.
Thank you for your prayers, support and encouraging and even non-encouraging words since I started this site back in February. So many people have been so kind to me, in person and in their responses to what I write here and on the link in my Facebook page to my articles that I am blown away. What really matters is when I get a comment from someone with PTSD or a family member of someone who let me know that something that I wrote touched them. I think that matters more than anything that something that was so difficult and even devastating to me is now helping others who thought that they were alone. It also feels really good to have completed the work for the Masters Degree and to realize that I am getting better.
I think tomorrow after work I shall take a breather at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish as well as take the Abbess over to Gordon Biersch for the Stein Club appreciation night. Take care and blessings,
Peace, Padre Steve+