by Bobby D. Gayton
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (BNc) — I served in the U.S. Army as a combat infantryman soldier during the Vietnam War. My tour of duty in Vietnam was Sept. 4, 1967, to Sept. 1, 1968. I was assigned to Alpha Company of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Battalion, and 22nd Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division.
This unit was involved in four counter-offensives during my tour of duty.
During my military service, I was not a Christian. After my military service, I struggled with the events of Vietnam.
As I sought help from the doctors, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This became my thorn in the flesh.
All I ever wanted was to have inner peace. I discovered that what I wanted was a struggle to find and when I found it, it was a struggle to keep it.
Jesus told the apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
All the symptoms of PTSD prevented the inner peace that I so desired in life. To those who suffer from PTSD I say, I know where you are going because I know where you have been.
The symptoms of my PTSD are survival guilt, depression, withdrawal, inner rage, avoidance of feeling, anger, anxiety reactions, sleep disturbance, nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts.
When I became a Christian, I thought that God would take away all my memories of my past, but this was an irrational belief and I had to find the truth.
As a Christian, I struggled with the person I was in 1967-1968. It was and is hard to see me as that person. I studied the Bible from cover to cover, and I went back to college to study counseling psychology. It was a struggle to tell those with whom I studied the Bible that obedience to the gospel of Christ would bring peace when I knew that I did not have the inner peace I desired.
Help came when I re-studied the life of Paul (Saul). Paul continuously made “havock of the church.” The “threatening and slaughter (murder)” were the continuous element from which Paul drew his breath (Acts 9:1-3). After becoming a Christian Paul struggled with his past life.
How could Paul write in Philippians 3:13-14 that “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”?
This took place in a Roman cell around AD 62. Later, he wrote to Timothy that he was a “blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” and described himself as “chief” of sinners.
Paul forgot those things, which are behind. Were they gone? Paul was saying that he was not going to allow his past to keep him from claiming heaven for faithfully following the Lord. He replaced living in the past with living in the future.
Paul shows those who suffer from PTSD that the past will always be there, but it should not keep us from attaining heaven as our final home.
I will always have the memories of my time in Vietnam. I will always suffer from PTSD, because there is no cure.
PTSD means many things to many people but to me it has come to mean “Pleasing The Savior Daily.”
Bobby has written a book on PTSD called “My Thorn in the Flesh: A Vietnam Veteran Speaks About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Bible,” which may be ordered from Lulu.com, or directly from the author.