PTSD and the spiritual side of trauma

United States (MNN) — Awareness for mental disorders caused by combat is growing, but because of the stigma and lack of information in our recent history, it’s difficult to pin down the exact number of people affected. According to the RAND Corporation, 20 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with PTSD. But what about veterans from earlier combat? What kind of treatment is available? Is it effective? Do people take advantage of it? There’s a lot of research that attempts to answer these questions, but sometimes it’s helpful to zoom in on the individual stories to get a better understanding of the challenges our service members face after combat.

(Photo courtesy of Warriors Set Free)

Bill Host is a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran. For decades, he has struggled with PTSD, formally called battle fatigue or shell shock. We met him through Warriors Set Free, a ministry arm of Set Free Ministries.

Host says that when he went off to war, he was already struggling with some baggage. But what he experienced during his service made things much worse. He says, “My experience was that when I came home from Vietnam, I was different. I was changed.”
Life after war
Young Vietnam Soldier (Representative photo via Pixabay)

After the war, Host was able to stay employed at various jobs and ended up retiring from a company after 32 years. Through this time, he had family and friends to talk to about his struggles, but that didn’t make the difficulties go away.

He says, “When I retired, I had more time to think about life. And for a lot of us veterans, those times in our lives like retirement can be difficult.”

Over the years, Host had tried to address the PTSD in a variety of ways. He went through various programs that were meant to help veterans dealing with trauma. He also tried to find distraction from the troubles he was facing. Host explains, “I had different addictions, really not knowing, until recently, all I was trying to do was fill up that place where God would fill much better.”
The spiritual battle
The journey to figuring that out began when Host got involved with an organization that paired him up with another veteran struggling with the same things he was. When the veteran took his own life, Host realized all these programs were avoiding a major aspect of PTSD: the spiritual side of things. And because of that, the core of the issue was never met head on.

He says, “After praying about it and thinking about it after the fact, I thought I would never try to help anyone again without that part of it being part of it.”

You see, Host is a believer who grew up in a Christian home. He says his relationship with God was solid as a child. But over the years as he experienced hardship, he turned away from God, preferring to deal with his demons his own way. He didn’t want to trust God anymore. But because of a promise he made overseas, Host didn’t cut ties completely.

He explains, “Probably 99 percent of soldiers, the prayer they pray is, ‘Hey, if I get home, I promise to go to church every week, and I promise to pray every day,’ and that kind of thing.”

And he eventually did go back to church. In part two of this story (see here) we’ll share how he got connected with Warriors Set Free and how his relationship with God is vital to his healing.