A pastor and chaplain is on a mission to help struggling veterans find peace.
Greg Wark, co-author of the new book, “The War Fighter’s Soul, Engaging in the Battle for the Warrior’s Soul,” revealed the dire circumstances many men and women in uniform face when they come home from battle.
And while the mental health crisis among veterans is continuing to get attention, he said it’s nothing new.
“We’ve had maybe 27 years of peace in our entire existence in America,” Wark told CBN’s Faithwire. “The rest of it’s been time when our veterans are fighting and dying — and for our freedoms.”
The suicide crisis among veterans is well-documented. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Tragically, out of the 130 suicides per day in 2019, 17 of those lives lost were veterans.”
Wark said he’s been working with those returning from battle for nearly three decades, helping them navigate marriage, life, alcoholism, and other struggles. Despite his successes, mental health struggles persist for many.
“Unfortunately, as our warriors come home, they are dealing with issues that plague their soul,” he said. “They’re dealing with issues that come because of what they were required to do, and those things, when they’re out of the military, out of that very structured environment, they kind of tend to come home to roost.”
Wark said he wrote “The War Fighter’s Soul” to help veterans deal with these struggles and to offer tools to help them navigate the pain and loneliness. He believes many veterans are given no assistance after returning from battle.
“They come home, VA gives them pills or they get platitudes from somebody. But what happens? The suicide rate goes from one to 44 a day,” Wark said. “It’s ridiculous. … it’s unconscionable.”
He continued, “And so I made a decision: I’m going to not be a complainer. I’m gonna be a producer. I’m gonna put something in print that anybody can read and anybody can do that’s gonna help deal with the suicide issue.”
Wark believes there has been a significant change in the way society handles “war fighters” since the end of World War I and II, citing “neglect.”
“We’re just not very good at handling our warriors,” he said, noting he hopes his book helps those suffering, those who love the sufferer, and society more broadly.
He said one of the biggest challenges for veterans is a dynamic that strikes when they leave service and head home. While serving, they’re with others like them who are struggling.
While deployed “everybody’s suffering together,” Wark said. But that dynamic changes at home.
“[At home], you’re left with dreams and nightmares. You’re left with depression,” he said. “You’re left with all the things that come to visit once you’re put in a position of no structure.”
Wark said “The War Fighter’s Soul, Engaging in the Battle for the Warrior’s Soul” offers a book of “hope” for those who need that support once they return home and feel alone.
As for the trauma men and women in uniform face, Wark said it differs by person.
“For every soldier, for every sailor, airman, Marine … the trauma may be completely different than you expect,” he said. “So, we first have to bring the suffering individual to the place where they recognize exactly what it is and they own it.”
Then, Wark said they embark on a “process of breaking the power of that trauma.”
He also encouraged Christians to support veterans in simple ways, noting it all starts with intentionally caring for those who have served.
“The first thing I want to encourage people to do is to honor those who deserve to be honored,” he said. “When you see somebody wearing a hat … thank them for their service.”
Beyond that, Wark said it’s essential to listen to veterans’ experiences and to also “listen to what they’re not saying.”
“Most people that are hurting have two parallel lives that they’re walking,” he said. “They have the life that they want you to think they are and the life they really are.”
Wark said recognizing this dynamic is essential and can help reach someone in need or in crisis. Find out more in “The War Fighter’s Soul, Engaging in the Battle for the Warrior’s Soul.”