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What military folks do in their down times

SPC William Seo of Project Help Afghanistan flanked by colleagues
In a recent column, Nicholas Kristof makes a case for decreasing troop size in Afghanistan in favor of increasing educational and development initiatives. In this debate, I would hate for the humanitarian efforts of our military to go unnoticed.

Over the past year, as I interviewed military chaplains for my forthcoming book, Miracles and Moments of Grace, (Leafwood, March 2011), I began sending boxes of goodies to my chaplains to share with their troops. On more than one occasion, the chaplain asked that I instead send boxes of school supplies to distribute to impoverished local schools and orphanages.

One young medic, SPC William Seo, was so disturbed by the poverty he saw around him that he started a charity, Project Help Afghanistan, that not only distributes boxes of school supplies, but also offers literacy classes and skills training for women so they can support themselves.

In their down times, our deployed military personnel are doing what they can to assist those in need. Their natural compassion is channeled into the kinds of activities that Kristof would like to see. Of course, I want to see every American serviceman and woman home safely and home soon. But while deployed, these men and women are building bridges of peace and future prosperity.  Read More 
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Suicides in the military

It was sad to read this article on the increasing rate of suicides among military personnel. Much of the increase is attributed to the increasingly long time military personnel are actively serving in war zones.

After speaking with military chaplains for my forthcoming book Miracles and Moments of Grace, I know without a doubt that the rate of suicides would be higher still without the presence of these spiritual advisors among our troops.

Several of my stories came from chaplains who were faced with the task of counseling troops who were intent on taking their own lives. One chaplain tells of talking down an armed soldier in a standoff that lasted over five hours. Another kept a seaman from throwing himself overboard into the screws of a moving ship.

It astounded me that these chaplains -- some of whom had no training in negotiating peaceful outcomes to suicidal situations -- were able to talk these despairing souls out of their drastic actions, sometimes even physically preventing them. Even though military personnel are moved around all the time, these chaplains all told me they made it a point to follow up and track the progress of these disturbed and battle-weary men and women. It made me realize, once again, the incredible role chaplains play in our nation's military.  Read More 
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