Session 1 – The Problem of Suicide
In this session you will consider the problem of suicide among veterans and military members. Suicide among Service Members and veterans is at epidemic proportions with 5,000 to 8,000 vets taking their own lives each year. That’s twenty-two suicides every day. No one knows how many more attempt suicide. The issues that lead to suicide are multi-faceted: unresolved guilt, grief, or shame; inability to reconcile with the problem of killing; pain associated with loss of hope, meaning and purpose; and, all the associated effects of trauma fueled by anger, various losses, and inability to adjust to civilian life or manage stress.
The information, photographs, and videos herein do not imply official endorsement by the DoD or its components.
Session 2 – The Commitment to Serve
In this session we examine what’s involved in service to the Nation and to God. It takes commitment to serve. It takes a willingness to put one’s life on the line for the benefit of others. You will hear from Special Operators who answered their Nation’s call and volunteered to serve. They were prepared to do whatever it took to protect the Nation even at the cost of their own lives. But the evil of 9/11 isn’t the only evil we face. Christian warriors face a spiritual enemy even more insidious than the Taliban or terrorism— they face the forces of Satan who are determined to destroy and discredit the faithful. Warriors for God also have a mission— to proclaim truth where there is falsehood and shed light where there is darkness. These warriors must serve God with a similar level of commitment as military warriors serve, and be prepared to combat evil wherever it is found. In this session, you will learn how to combat your spiritual enemies and be victorious in your Christian life. It begins with a commitment to serve.
Session 3 – Guilt
Combat creates incredible stressful situations. It places enormous pressure on the shoulders of our warriors to the point where they might feel everything depends on them. This deep sense of personal responsibility for the lives of others or for the success of the mission, whether it resides at the lowest ranks or at the highest levels, can be unhealthy. It may lead to unrealistic expectations, or worse, undeserved guilt. This form of guilt manifests in expressions like, “My guys are dead because of me.” Or, “It’s all my fault.” War is also a messy business where innocent people die. Sometimes children die. Mistakes are made. Warriors have to deal with these things too— things that they may have done or thought they had done. Many suffer with some form of guilt, whether they regret the loss of life, or the brutality, or actions that resulted in bad outcomes. Regardless, they suffer. Then there is the question of absolution: “Will God forgive me?” Or, “Can I forgive myself?” In this session we’ll consider how combat makes a warrior vulnerable to guilt and self-doubt. We’ll review several scenes, listen to testimonies of fellow warriors, explore the problem of war-related guilt, then consider ways to deal with guilt, deserved and undeserved.
Session 4 – Anger
The problem of anger and rage is pervasive in our veteran community, The constant and demanding requirements of the battlefield coupled with repeated sleep deprivation fuels an inevitable explosion of anger. Without periodic rest and refitting, the warrior is at risk of expressing his anger inappropriately during and after the battle. Factors that also contribute to anger are unresolved grief, over exposure to battlefield brutality, and inability to reconcile intrapersonal conflicts with one’s combat experience. Anger builds in a warrior like a head of steam— if left unchecked, it will explode. Anger is a physiological effect that not only is tied to battle fatigue and exposure, but also to a sense of detachment and isolation, two factors often experienced by warriors. In this session you will hear first-hand from those who experienced anger on and off the battlefield. You will discover how unresolved anger leads to acts of indifference, hatred, and revenge, and how often it is associated with other issues, such as perceived injustices and loss of meaning and control. While anger must be considered separately, it is never a separate issue. It’s always associated with other post-traumatic stress effects including guilt and shame.
Session 5 – Grief and Shame
Grief for a warrior is a huge concern. The problem of grief, grief over the loss of comrades, grief over perceived failures or actions, is not easily resolved. Grief that causes pain and sorrow can haunt a warrior for years after the battle. Another combat-connected effect is shame. While shame is not directly tied to grief, and more often related to guilt, it is an associated problem that changes the way a warrior sees him or herself. Shame is a deep sense of unworthiness and uncleanness; and whether that sense is deserved or undeserved does not change anything. The perception of shame becomes the reality for so many warriors. In this session we’ll consider both of these issues. It will be evident from the testimonies you hear that these issues are very real for warriors. It is important for warriors suffering with grief to find relief from their pain. It is equally necessary that they also experience cleansing from their shame, shame associated with all the violence and killing, shame associated with failures and perceived guilt. The good news is that Christ offers comfort to those who grieve and cleansing those who are ashamed.
Session 6 – Marriage and Family Issues
Combat-related trauma and its effects are not issues only for warriors. These issues also affect families, and can have devastating effects leading to violence beyond the battlefield, marital and family discord, and divorce. In this session you will review three scenes in SURRENDER ONLY TO ONE that address the various domestic issues experienced by returning warriors and their families. You will note how other issues already addressed in the discussion guide have bearing on marriages and families. You will be challenged to consider ways to mitigate risks and assess vulnerabilities. The good news is that the Scriptures provide sound advice and guidance for marriages and families.
Session 7 – Hopelessness
The residue of war generates many existential questions and concerns that, if left unanswered, set the warrior on a downward and deadly spiral into an abyss of hopelessness. Warriors who find themselves in this place see no way out. They feel alone and isolated. Withdrawn, they lose meaningful connections with others. They’ve not only lost hope about the future, they’ve lost purpose and meaning for their lives. Buried beneath fear, anxiety, and disappointment, they search for ways to cope but without success. Unless these wounded souls find hope, their lives are over, and sadly, many commit suicide. However, there is hope for the hopeless and meaning for those who’ve lost it. That hope is found in Jesus Christ who guarantees that he’ll raise the most desperate and lost warrior to a new life full of hope, peace, and joy.
Session 8 – Surrender
The effects of combat-related trauma run deep, down to the warrior’s very heart and soul. Typical interventions such as clinical treatments and group therapies are inadequate and usually ignore the spiritual dimension to trauma, issues related to guilt, profound grief, and shame among others that we’ve considered in this guide. In this session, you’ll hear from Special Operators who discovered that God brings healing to wounded hearts as well as to hurting families. As they turned to God, trusting in Him, they found hope and healing. They experienced victory over the things that had been destroying their lives. It was not about holding onto what they had, but giving everything to God— surrendering their struggles and their lives to the only One who could save them from their problems and themselves. Only as they surrendered themselves completely to Him, did they experience forgiveness for their guilt, cleansing from their shame, and comfort for their grief. In turn, God gave them a new life abounding in newfound hope, purpose and meaning. He restored broken relationships and bound up the wounds of the heart, assuring a lasting and complete healing of heart and soul.
A Call To Action: Dr. Damon Friedman
The attacks on 9/11 marked a turning point in our national history. Since then, 2.7 million men and women have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the war on terror. On that fateful September day, 2,977 American lives were lost at the World Trade Center in New York, on a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. We’ve been fighting the enemy of our country for over fifteen years, and it doesn’t look like the war is ending anytime soon.
Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman once said, “It is only those who have never fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.” How right he was. The effects of combat are wide and far reaching. Besides the physical and social devastation, war affects generations, touching many lives and affecting each warrior in unique and personal ways. The only commonality between all warriors is that no one leaves war unscathed.
Many veterans know exactly what General Sherman was talking about. Unfortunately, many have lost hope in life and taken their own lives. A Department of Defense study conducted in 2012 revealed that over twenty veterans commit suicide everyday. This is ten times greater than the loss of life in combat. Regrettably these statistics not only affect service members, families feel the effects of war as well. For example, incidences of domestic violence among returning service members have increased dramatically and rates of divorce have skyrocketed. War is hell.
The Veterans Administration (VA) has implemented numerous programs to address the issues of returning service members. They’ve made a concerted effort to help our veterans. But much more needs to be done, especially in the area of spirituality. Failing to address the spiritual component is leaving a gaping hole in the overall treatment of our warriors. Our personal conviction at SOF Missions, which solves a plethora of issues, is based on full surrender to God. When a warrior comes to the place of surrender, she or he realizes the battle can’t be won alone. The enemy, in whatever form it takes—post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, or abuse, is just too strong.
Surrender is the moment when a battle-hardened warrior takes a knee to something greater—bows to the One who holds all power and might, the Creator of the universe and the Living God. This is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Warrior-King and Savior of humankind. Through Him, warriors experience healing and find lasting peace. He is the only One who can take the guilt, anger, and bitterness away, and bring a person into a place of hope, peace, and lasting rest.
In 2014, I attended a senior leader’s conference in California. While there, I met Pastor Greg Laurie, Dwight Thompson, and the entire Harvest America team. After sharing the devastating statistic of over twenty veterans committing suicide a day, they urged SOF Missions to spearhead a movement and launch a film that could bring hope and purpose back into the veteran community. Without delay our organization took action. Three years later, our vision became a reality.
We have made it our goal to bring national awareness to the combat struggles that veterans experience such as moral and spiritual injury and PTSD. This film has been our main weapon, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. On September 11th, 2016, the film was pre-released in a few venues in Southern California. We were blown away by the overwhelming positive response. Over twenty-five thousand people saw the film and heard the message of our fearless Leader and Commander who fights for us and is in the business of saving lives. Since then, SURRENDER ONLY TO ONE has won or been nominated for awards in over six national and international film festivals, and we are ramping up for our official launch on September 11, 2018.
The Heart of a Warrior
Our forefathers, those living during the time of the American Revolution, were hard-core men—I mean bad to the bone! They were the Spartans Of that era, godly men who understood the power of God. They also understood the odds as they faced the most powerful military in their world—the army and navy of the British Empire. In battle terms the colonists were no match for the British. The shocking truth is that they didn’t care—they chose to fight. It was liberty over tyranny, death to slavery. The American Revolution was a bloody and gut wrenching war. But by some miracle, despite numerous losses, the colonists were eventually victorious. I don’t know how they won, but they did. I believe it was by sheer grit and heart, and through the power of a relentless God. Today, America is one of the freest countries in the world—few nations have ever known such liberties. But the cost of those liberties is great, paid in blood by millions of men and women who have given their lives so that the rest of us might be free to enjoy the liberties of a free nation: freedom to worship, to speak our mind, to choose our livelihood or to live where we want.
In Numbers 14:9; Joshua says to the people of Israel, “the Lord is with us! Don’t he afraid…” The truth is, God has called you to be a warrior, to engage in a righteous fight—against evil. But in order to win, you have to be prepared. You must learn to train and have the heart of a warrior. Then, you must take action—fight! Theodore Roosevelt once said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” —The Man in the Arena (23 April, 1910)
Today, men are failing to be warriors because they won’t fight. They choose to be one of those cold and timid souls. Why? I believe it is because they are ill-prepared and lack the confidence to serve. We live in an entitled generation, one that seeks immediate gratification and wants everything for nothing. What is the result of this sense of entitlement? It is a weak generation. Where are our Spartan warriors? Where is the courage to do what is right? A Spartan is a warrior who is ready to defend a nation. The Spartan is a freedom fighter and a liberator of the oppressed. If you ask me— we need more warriors today! We need warriors to fight for freedom and liberation.
Will you fight for what is right? Will you fight for God, your family, your community, and your country? Will you be the warrior God has called you to be? Are you willing to step into the arena? Will you be the man whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood or the cold and timid soul who didn’t know victory or defeat? Today, in a nation going south— God is calling you! He is looking for warriors that are faithful to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a says: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him,” There’s a lost and broken world out there, and they need Spartan Warriors.
Be strong at heart. Prepare mentally, Train physically, Get in the fight!
F. Damon Friedman
The information, photographs, and videos herein do not imply official endorsement by the DoD or its components.