The Federalist: I’ll Never Forget What I Saw at the Pentagon After 9/11

In summer 2005, I visited the Smithsonian’s American History museum in Washington DC with a couple of Marine friends. All of us were stationed in DC at the time. We were nursing wounds from our experiences in the Global War on Terror, and wandered around the museum admiring various pieces collected from our nation’s history.

I pushed one of my friends in a wheelchair because an improvised explosive device had shattered his leg; the same IED killed three of his friends. It had not yet dawned on me that a 9-11 exhibit might already be on display since it had only been four years, but we rounded a corner and there before us hung a massive American flag.
The room was crowded with visitors, many of them high school students. People were posing, laughing, and making funny faces as they took pictures. I was stunned. My friends were enraged. They turned to look at me. There we stood staring at the American flag that had hung on the side of the Pentagon days after 184 people were murdered on-site in this nation’s largest terrorist attack in history. We all thought: Is nothing sacred? Is four years long enough to forget? Is joking around appropriate in the face of such suffering and evil?

To be fair, these kids were young when 9/11 happened. They were probably 10 or 11 on that fateful day, and irreverence is often a part of youth, but they should have known better. Nearly 3,000 people perished that day, and countless more have died since at the hands of terrorists.

What We Saw that Day
My memories of that flag will forever be different from the majority of Americans and the rest of the world. While most remember it blowing in the breeze in news reports or when they visited the American History museum, I was there in person to see it. I saw it for the first time when, after volunteering at the Army base where I was stationed north of DC, I helped 400 grieving family members visit the Pentagon crash site shortly after the attack. I still see in my mind’s eye the gaping hole, floors collapsed in on one another, smoke rising from the smoldering ashes, the tormented faces of loved ones.

The intensity of seeing the site was amplified a thousand-fold by standing alongside agonized grieving family members; many of whom collapsed at my feet from the sheer weight of their pain. When those families visited for the first time after terrorists flew a plane into that iconic building, I struggled to keep military bearing while standing by in my dress whites, but it became impossible as tears streamed down my cheeks.

Read the rest over at The Federalist.

Catholic Exchange: A 9-11 Relief Worker’s Dark Night and Healing

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was 20 years old and had been in the Navy just under two years. I was driving to work across the base I was stationed at just a few short miles from Washington DC when the first plane hit the twin towers. Like most people that morning I was confused by the news, but I walked into work just in time to see the second plane hit on the TV in the office. My co-workers and I crowded around a television in confusion and horror for about half an hour, and then, the Pentagon was hit. The base I worked on was a perceived top 10 target and chaos ensued. A friend of mine was standing next to me when the news broke about the Pentagon. She was 8.5 months pregnant and her Marine husband was stationed at the Pentagon. We were instructed to return to our Divisions. I told her that I would check in with my boss and come find her and stay with her until there was news about her husband. After that things get hazy.

I remember the piercing sun and the brilliant blue sky of that morning. The latter is something that most people who were in New York or DC remember about that day. I remember civilians running to their cars as all non-essential civilian personnel were instructed to evacuate the base. I worked on a base with over 20,000 employees, to give you an idea of the chaos. After checking in with my boss, I found my friend and we barricaded ourselves in a room in the Marine barracks and waited. I only remember the terror I felt and the concern I had for my friend. I remember jet engines flying overhead as we braced for impact. Hours went by when we finally got news that my friend’s husband had hiked up I-395 and had found a ride home. He was safe. The phones were jammed until evening, so I also remember the relief in my own father’s voice when he heard me say that I was safe. He was concerned that I had been at the Pentagon that day for some reason. Given the line of work that I did, that would have been a possibility.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

On the Woundedness of Men in Our Culture from a Female Perspective

The last few days I have watched a few different movies that have gotten me thinking about people I have known in the past, as well as the state of our culture. I am not a big TV watcher, but my body and brain have needed a break before I make the push through midterms into term papers and then onto finals. Why would I even be able to speak on the topic of the wounded men in our culture? Well, because I spent much of my Twenties engrossed in the thoroughly secular culture of men and women while I was in the Navy. For a while I was the only woman on my watch-team and almost all of my friends were men. In fact, for most of my life, until marriage, my friends were predominately male. Male friends of mine have confided in me through broken relationships, promiscuous behavior, divorces, thoughts of adultery, pain, and a lot of brokenness. I am also married and observe how my husband is different from me in many ways. This is not meant to be an exhaustive account, but it is about what I have learned through my love of the men in my life from my dad, to my husband, to friends.

I watched three different movies with the same actor in them. They were thoroughly secular, especially in discussion. There was nothing graphic per say, but the discussions were anything but pure. I watched them in order to observe our culture. It reminded me of what I was privy to and observed in the past. While these films were describing a culture that is counter to the Catholic’s knowledge of truth, a bit of truth would shine through the darkness and despair of it all. These people could not tell outright that they were in despair, but I could see it. I see it on TV and I have seen it in the faces of people I have known. It is the unquenchable thirst that cannot be satiated by this world.

There are many articles and blogs on the brokenness of women in the face of the Sexual Revolution. I myself lived that lie for 3 years when I cohabited with the man I dated before my husband. A man whom I had no intention of marrying. It is the biggest regret of my life and it opened my eyes to the lie of our culture. Cohabitation is not marriage. Men and women are different. We are unique in creation, but equal in dignity. We are complementary and meant to fit together. Men are not meant to be women and women are not meant to be men. Today I want to focus on cultural tendencies and the way we treat men, especially how women treat men.

1. Men are sexual animals who are incapable of monogamy.

I have heard this statement a lot, not just in media, but from friends. Yes, men are wired in a more sexual manner than women. They think about sex all of the time, but as I read earlier today, that does not mean that men are incapable of self-control. What kind of message do we send to men by this accusation? When we accuse men of only being capable of promiscuous sex, what are we demanding of them? For women, nothing. We discard them and either give into this tendency or treat these men with disdain. Yes, I have known some real jerks. I had conversations with a few Marines I dated that I never expected to have, but I stood my ground. But in my youth, anger, and rush to judgment, I discarded them. Now I wasn’t going to continue to date men who were only interested in using me for sex. First, I practiced abstinence the entire 6 years I served and did not make an error in judgment until I was 26. But, I should have paid more attention to what was going on. I should have seen all of the pain going on around me in both men and women. It was everywhere.

Men tend to be promiscuous for a few reasons. First, women have given in and believe that they must be promiscuous as well. Women have bought the lie that promiscuous sex is the answer to true freedom. Tell that to my female friends who slept with entire platoons of men, who came home crying and broken, only to do it again. Men actually do need guidance from women. It is not that men are incapable of self-control, but they need the help of their partner, as does the woman in the situation. The sexual passion is one of the strongest forces on earth and men and women should be helping each other practice self-control. Sometimes men need more help than women. It’s okay to admit that.

Second, men who are aggressively promiscuous are usually wounded and hurting. They go through woman after woman in order to erase a relationship or relationships from the past. It is their way of numbing the pain or it is their revenge. I have known quite a few men like this. I have seen this depicted in multiple movies, but it is something that we don’t pay much attention to. Men are suppose to be incapable of suffering and pain, so we brush it off. They are getting their fill of sex, so why does it matter that the root of their pain is not being addressed? No one encourages the man in this situation to heal. Instead our culture applauds his conquests. We need to start acknowledging that men feel pain. It may be different from a woman’s pain, but it is no less deep.

Third, these men usually come from families that were either broken or lacked a strong mother or father. Promiscuity usually points to a lack in understanding of how men and women should interact. They either lacked a father to show them how to treat women with respect or a mother to show them how to love women. Once again this is a problem that our culture wants to ignore because the reality of fatherlessness, divorce, adultery, etc. points to the brokenness of that way of life.

2. Men are expendable.

As women have convinced themselves that their sexual freedom rests in being like a promiscuous male, a discard culture has emerged that is the opposite of what many men do to women. Women are discarding men all together. They use the men and then throw them to the curb, including many women who have become pregnant. How often do we see the go it alone mother who doesn’t need the man who impregnated her? How often do we see depictions of women in their 30s or 40s going to a sperm bank in order to have a child without a male partner? Whether we believe it or not, men absorb this sentiment. They know that they are seen as expendable by many women and so they in turn treat women in that manner. So we end up with the sexes competing and discarding one another, and then everyone wonders why marriage is falling apart?! Is it really so shocking that people in the generation behind mine are not getting married? With this lack of trust, what would make someone want to marry? The sexes are not meant to use and abuse one another, but love and serve one another as Christ loves the Church.

3. Men are stupid.

One of the reasons I loathe post-modern sitcoms is because of how men are depicted. In almost every single one of them, the father is an impotent and idiotic man who can get nothing right and the woman has to fix him. This is so offensive! Men are incapable of fathering, men are incapable of grocery shopping, men are incapable of providing for their families, and the list goes on and on and on. No matter what the man cannot get it right. ONLY a woman can do things in the proper fashion. What do we think this does to men?

It creates a generation of men who lack work ethic and direction. Men need to provide for their families. Men need purpose, as do women, but those purposes are equal but different. Men need work. But if women tell them they are useless and stupid all of the time, then they stop trying. They lose that sense of purpose that God gave them. They lose that sense of who God made them to be. When a man falls in love and desires to marry a woman, it means that he is willing to die for the person he is marrying. He will give everything to her. This is not sentiment. This is reality. This is how men are wired. There is a reason men are the ones who go to war. They instinctively grasp honor, courage, and selfless sacrifice for their loved ones and the brothers next to them. This is not something to be mocked. It is something to be admired. Men are not stupid. They just aren’t women. That is the real issue.

4. Men should be more like women.

Yes, there have been great strides made in men becoming more involved in the home life. This is a positive, but men are not women, nor should they be asked to be. I struggle in this department. I am constantly telling my husband to stop trying to fix everything and just let me vent. Well, men fix things. If someone they love is hurting, they just want to fix it. Well, women sometimes just need to talk it out. This is a balancing act that they have to work out within their marriage. That being said, we cannot expect our husbands or boyfriends to be like our best girlfriend. My husband is never going to enjoy going to the ballet, a musical, or a chick flick. I cannot expect him to love it. He goes with me, because he loves me and I go to movies or other activities with him. Marriage is about compromise, but we cannot expect or force our interests, especially more feminine interests on them. Some men love these things and that is great, but my husband is not one of them. I have to accept that about him.

Men and women think differently. In one of the movies I was watching the married couple was having a fight that sounded exactly like one I would have with my husband. Men don’t like fighting. They just want to know when it will be over and they can fix the problem. Women on the other hand may want to vent and pout. The point is that none of us are mind readers and I cannot expect a man to think as I do. So let’s stop!  Men are not women and women are not men. That’s okay!  That’s how God made us. We are still equals even if we are different.

Conclusion

The woundedness that I have seen in both men and women is heart-breaking. The real answer is in Christ and His Church, but I wanted to share some of my own experiences and observations. Sometimes we women railroad men too much, and that includes inside of the Church. I will address the latter in a post at a later date. It’s important for us to remember that men hurt and suffer, that they are not stupid, not incapable of love, and that they are meant to be men. If we want to heal the culture then we have to stop treating men poorly in the name of feminism. Men are capable of great things and they deserve our love and respect. If, like me, you struggle with some of these tendencies, make an effort to overcome the lies of our culture. God bless.

A PTSD Catholic

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In 2004 I was diagnosed with delayed-onset PTSD. It took three years for my 9-11 relief work to catch up with me. While most 20 years olds were partying in college or worried about exams, I was consoling 400 people whose loved ones had been murdered in the Pentagon. I had only been in the Navy two years and ended up being a part of one of the most historic and horrific events of my generation.

I was raised in a nominal Catholic home. We went to Mass often, but that was the extent of our involvement in the Church. I had fallen out of going to regular Mass on Sundays by the time I volunteered to help after the attack on the Pentagon. I still read theological works, but was separated from His Church. I did go to Mass while I was a relief worker and my Mass attendance did improve in its wake, but I was still a cultural Catholic. 9-11 was the catalyst that brought about my PTSD. There were a lot of other factors, but this single event triggered it.  Look at the picture below.  I stood there with 400 grieving families members looking at this sight straight from Hell.

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There are a lot of stereotypes and stigma associated with this mental illness. People like the Veteran who murdered people in Florida recently do not help the situation. The media perpetuates a lot of myths about the disease, while claiming compassion for the thousands of Veterans who live with this condition. The vast majority of us, are the types who work ourselves into the ground and then collapse. We take on more than we can handle, but don’t realize it until it is over. We run into danger with little thought of the long term consequences. We want to help others, but sacrifice ourselves in the process.

My PTSD manifested while I was living alone and stationed in the United Kingdom. It began when I literally cried for a week straight. My father had had a serious health scare and it was the last straw. I went to my Leading Petty Officer (LPO) and he had me go to the Air Force Base for medical care. I was on a British base so the nearest hospital was a 2 hour drive. The doctor threw different medications at me and that was that. I then started having horrific nightmares, night terrors, and panic attacks. The telltale flash backs began as well. The military continued to throw medicine at the problem while I spiraled further and further into the pit. At this point I was active in the small parish in town and attending Mass each Sunday.

I finally checked myself into the hospital for a month. Thankfully, the one thing the military did do right was get a contract with the top London mental health facility. How, I do not know? Mick Jagger was treated at the hospital I stayed in. Finally, I had doctors who were concerned with treatment that encompassed psychotropic medication and psychotherapy. It was there that I was introduced to EMDR. The single most effective treatment that I have undergone for my PTSD symptoms. The point of EMDR is to help each patient piece together memories of the event. Part of the problem for PTSD sufferers is that we have major memory loss about the event and can only remember it in pieces. Our brains cannot process incomplete memories. EMDR seeks to remedy that situation. I eventually left the hospital and continued treatment until I decided to leave the Navy after my 6 year contract was up. I had active PTSD symptoms for about 5 years.

Nowadays, I am able to function normally with my 9-11 experiences. Things have complicated a bit after having three miscarriages and serious hormone deficiencies. My PTSD symptoms have manifested in the wake of my most recent miscarriage that was traumatic in that it required emergency surgery because I hemorrhaged. I have recognized some avoidance symptoms in myself and it looks like I may need to look for an EMDR specialist in the area. PTSD does make it difficult to handle new traumas.

So, how is this tied to my Catholic Faith? It is a Cross. I have a very hard time resting calmly in the Lord’s arms. I am always pushing forward and running away. I am extremely restless, which impacts my family and my relationship with Our Lord at times. PTSD sufferers tend to drown out their pain through: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, etc. My tendency these days is food, as I am actively trying to live a life of holiness and avoid super risky behavior. But, it is still an unhealthy, and at times sinful, way to avoid the pain. There is a deep ache that lives inside of me because of what I have seen, what I have lost, and what I have experienced. I will spend time running away from Christ, only to collapse and beg for His mercy. It takes me a while to remember that He loves me and will extend it freely.

PTSD sufferers do not tend to talk about their experiences. Why? First, because a lot of people cannot possibly understand what we have been through. Can you understand combat, a terrorist attack, rape, abuse, etc, if you have never experienced that kind of horror? No. Unfortunately, while we should talk about it, most of us have experienced the dumbest and most unkind words from people. “Suck it up”, is not a proper response. Yes, this is based on ignorance, but it is hurtful. Second, we do not want to burden people with our suffering. We tend to be the caretaker types, we want to help others, but do not want to add to other people’s struggles. Third, media stereotypes make it even harder. I had to think seriously about writing this post, because of how it could be misconstrued.

There are a lot of stereotypes about PTSD. Hollywood tends to make movies where the Special Forces Veteran murders people while having flashbacks. I have worked with Special Forces guys and they are not a bunch of sociopaths. This is so unbelievably rare. In fact, the highest risk for PTSD sufferers is suicide. We tend to suffer in silence, rather than lash out at others. Stop taking information from the media, they are doing more harm than good.

For me, I know deep down that I will remain restless and on the run until I rest in Christ. The problem is, learning how to rest in Christ. I have been in flight mode for so long that I struggle to disengage, even now. I went from PTSD to three miscarriages in a few short years. It was a constant stream of pain and grief. It makes it very hard to “Be still and know that I am God”. I know that is where I belong, but some days it is much easier to drown my sorrows in copious amounts o sugar. Then the self-loathing begins anew and the cycle begins again. Thank God, Our Lord is patient.

 

Mental illness is a clear path to Golgotha. It is a heavy Cross to bare, especially in a society that is either fearful or apathetic about those who suffer from PTSD or depression. With so many mass shootings, people think that all mentally ill people are psychopaths. This could not be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that you may work alongside someone who sufferers from PTSD, depression, or anxiety and not even know it. If you are blessed enough for someone to open up to you about their struggles be sure to show compassion, even if you yourself don’t get it. That person chose YOU to share with in their battles. As Christians, we should be helping one another in love and mercy. All of us are waging a serious battle with sin and suffering. Let’s help one another to learn to rest in God.

Memorial Day

As we approach Memorial Day, remember to pray for the dead who have served our country, both those who were KIA and those who died at home. Remember to pray for the families who go on living without their loved ones. And because it is a great sacrifice, pray for those who have the invisible wounds of PTSD. If you have never seen this music video, I recommend getting a kleenex or two before you hit play.

Why Military Priests Being Threatened Matters

A couple of hours ago, Catholic Vote published an article detailing how federally contracted Catholic priests are barred from saying Mass during the government shutdown, or face jail time.  Yes, you read that right.  As a Catholic and a Veteran, this turned my stomach. You see, I was a Russian Linguist, which means that I know quite a bit about Soviet history and tactics.  How do you kill a frog?  You put it in cold water and then turn the heat up slowly.  This, my friends, is a test.  This is a way for the people in charge to test the waters to see how far they can go.  How far can they go in their attacks on the Church?

 
The HHS mandate the requires religious organizations who are not churches to purchase health insurance plans that cover birth control and abortifacients, was the beginning phase.  The only people who complained?  Those crazy Catholics who are backwards in their beliefs on human sexuality.  I love this charge because I know more about my body, thanks to Creighton NFP, than most women in this country.  But, to the hypersexualized “culture of me” that pervades our culture, we are an enemy.  I was blown away that this last presidential election was won on the false idea that Romney/Ryan would take away people’s birth control.  Those are the only mailings I got from the DNC, by the way.
 
The propaganda machine of this government is impressive, but more than anything, they have the apathy of the American people.  Silence means to allow evil and injustice to occur.  Catholics should have to pay for birth control, as far as the majority of Americans are concerned.  There has been little outcry from groups other than those companies who are suing the Obama Administration for 1st Amendment violations.  The press has just continued the lie that most Catholics use birth control anyway.  I am not most Catholics, nor are most of my friends, so their statistics of 99% are clearly sketchy.
 
So, very little response from the American people, as is evidenced by the most recent presidential election.  Time to up the ante.  The government shutdown is the perfect time to test the waters further, by denying military Catholics easy access to Mass.  There is a major shortage of Catholic chaplains in the  military, so the government has hired local contractor priests to offer Mass for service-members.  These contractors have been informed that if they voluntarily, without pay even, perform Mass during the shutdown they will be jailed.  That’s right, jailed.  We have stepped into full blown, overt, you cannot miss it persecution.  If the HHS mandate was not clear enough for people, then this should be a major wake up call.
 
Denying a Catholic access to Mass is to deny the very “source and summit” of the Christian life, per Vatican II.  Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass each Sunday.  It is  not a choice, it is a fundamental requirement for being a practicing Catholic.  In fact, if done knowingly, it is a mortal sin.   Now, for these military folks, if they cannot find a Mass in their area, that is not a mortal sin, especially since it is against their will.  We do have an obligation, however, to do everything in our power to get to Mass.  Cut off Mass, and you go for the jugular of the Catholic Church.
 
What is my concern?  First the lamestream media who is just a propaganda arm for this Administration, will not report this story.  Second, both Parties in Congress are so busy fighting for power that they have forgotten their job is to serve the American people.   Third, I think that a lot of Americans could not care less if Catholics cannot go to Mass.  I hope I am wrong, but we are quickly becoming a culture of “if it doesn’t affect me, then I don’t care”.The third one scares me more because it means that religious freedom is only guaranteed for a chosen few.  I pray that the American people wake up.  I pray that social media can do what our news agencies no longer do, report the news.  The threatened arrest of Catholic priests should send fear into the hearts of all of us because we could very easily be next.
 
Most importantly we need to pray.  We need to receive the Sacraments as much as possible.  We need the grace to stand up in the face of persecution.  Pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Divine Office, your own prayers and devotions. GO to MASS!  Just be sure to pray.  And on this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, I ask for his prayers and intercessions before the throne of Heaven and for prayers for our Holy Father.  Also, St. John Vianney, ora pro nobis.