Veterans respond to Middle East tension

By January 16, 2020

USA (MNN) — As tensions continue with Iran, veterans speak up in the U.S. Some do so through action  For example, a Marine veteran in Alabama re-enlisted just days after the death of Iranian general Qassam Soleimani. Others take to the streets or social media in protest.

No matter what branch veterans served in, the subject of war is “personal, obviously, to us,” Army veteran Steve Prince says. “There’s mixed views just like any community; we all address things a little bit different,” he continues.

“As veterans, we know the real cost of war, so we never enter into that conversation lightly.”

Prince leads Warriors Set Free, a division of Set Free Ministries. He and other trained believers help veterans process the traumas of active duty. Learn more here.

Iraq: stay or go?

Iraq remains a key figure in the current U.S.-Iran conflict and in discussions among U.S. veterans. Many have a significant tie to the region; 2.7 million service members have been to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, Brown University reports, and over half of them have deployed more than once.

Black Hawk Helicopters from the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) move into an Iraqi city during an operation to occupy the city, April 5, 2003. The 101st is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

West Michigan native and Air Force veteran Jeffrey Hearth supports U.S. involvement “as a preventative measure to ensure [Iraq’s] democracy is strong” and troop withdrawal when Iraq is “strong enough for us to leave.” The goal is “a self-sustained democracy without foreign intervention,” he adds.

Hearth served in Kuwait in 2003 during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, primarily working on avionic electronic warfare systems and convoy duty.

Five years later, Prince was deployed to Iraq as part of Task Force 139 (detainee operations) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Prior to that, Prince served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm – commonly known as the Gulf War – with the 11th Air Defense Brigade.

Romans 13 always comes to mind: ‘The authorities are put in place to punish the evildoers.’ There’s not much question in my mind,” Prince says of current events.

“There’s evil happening in the Middle East and somebody needs to do something about it. That happens to be us, usually.”

Last week, a pair of Iraq veterans in West Virginia urged their fellow citizens to pray for U.S. troops currently deployed to the Middle East. Hearth agrees, suggesting believers seek the Lord’s direction when praying for U.S. troops.

“The dynamic differs for each individual,” Hearth says, explaining that some may have families waiting anxiously back home, while others are “at home” among their squadrons.

How to help veterans

No matter what happens next in the Middle East, one thing is sure: “The cost of war is high when it’s when it’s left untreated,” Prince says. An average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and many veterans have substance abuse problems.

“The VA’s main approach is counseling and medication. What we attempt to do when we work with veterans is to help them frame that (trauma) in a spiritual manner, in a healthy manner.”

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

If you or a loved one need help, contact Warriors Set Free here.

“We’re taught to be ‘hyper-responsible’… If you’re a leader in the military, everything’s your fault. You hear about any failure as ‘you failed’ even when something was out of your control,” Prince explains.

“So, we help [veterans] to identify what lies they might be believing and unpack that [trauma]. Forgiveness is a big part… forgiving your leadership if they’ve made mistakes, forgiving the enemy.”



Header image depicts M777 Light Towed Howitzer in service with the 10th Mountain Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Logar Province, Charkh District, Afghanistan.  Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

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