Years ago, a military family at CFB Chatham intentionally starved one of their children and when the news reported the child’s death, shocked neighbours could only comment, “if I had only known”. Around the same time, a military neighbour’s daughter shot herself to get away from an abusive relative and my pre-teen daughter wondered out loud to us, “if I had only known”. A recent Facebook comment made by the young son of a military member who recently committed suicide, echoed these same heartbreaking comments, “dad if I had only known”. Three individuals facing the deaths of people they knew, were struck by guilt at their helplessness. They felt they somehow let a neighbour, a friend, a parent down. Regardless of what consoling words others offered those collaterally impacted by the death of another, many continue to carry the guilt. Many do struggle to comprehend why things like this happen.
It can be troubling to feel helpless in this world and it could be easy to hide away from the misery, and sadness. The medical system is overwhelmed with those struggling with mental health issues and so while many wait for help, they often suffer alone. Emotions often prevent people from being honest with themselves and so, we must keep our eyes, ears and hearts open for signs of a struggle in our family, friends and even neighbours. It is not easy to reach out to someone to share your problems nor is it easy to step up and be a comforting shoulder to someone in distress. It takes courage. We know many in the military community are broken, some due to their military service and some because of the stress of this world. There is a role for us even if it is just offering our prayers. Many military members have turned to a FACEBOOK site called SEND UP THE COUNT to express their feelings, anger and even cries for help. It is a closed site, however anyone with a concern for our military community can join. This is a place where you can identify prayers as well as a place where you can reach out and possibly help someone.
When Jesus offered these words recorded in the Gospel of John (13:35), “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” it was not part of some casual conversation. He was eating His last meal with His disciples and wanted them to recognize the need to show unselfish love for others. And, His words were not just meant for those around that table, but was a message He desired would guide all future ministries. One desire to love our military community was not born out of an afterthought but was planted in our hearts by Jesus at His last supper. He has allowed our experiences, our fellowship and our connection to the military community and our relationship with Him to be a catalyst to spur our love for others. Our military needs our prayers, our hands, our feet and our love. Choose to love another.