Chaplain describes faith lost, regained, in Iraq

Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:49pm EDT
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By Ed Stoddard

DALLAS (Reuters Life!) - U.S. Army chaplain Roger Benimoff almost lost his faith in God during two tours of duty in Iraq, but then found it again during a painful recovery that ultimately made it stronger.

"Faith Under Fire: An Army Chaplain's Memoir," is his account of a harrowing journey back from the hell of war. The book was scheduled for publication on Tuesday.

A spiritual healer and counselor, Benimoff found himself being treated as a patient as he battled with the demons of post-traumatic stress disorder, which shook his faith in a Christian God and almost cost him his beloved family.

Benimoff, who is now based in Dallas as a civilian hospital chaplain, spoke in an interview about his book, co-authored with Eve Conant of Newsweek, and his personal journey.

Q: How difficult was it to write this book and reveal so much of the personal pain in your family life? Was it part of the healing process for you?

A: It was very, very difficult to write the book. I wrestled with it ... but the book became therapeutic in a sense.

Q: You describe a very emotional scene in Arlington National Cemetery when, while visiting it with your boys, you unexpectedly come across the tombstone of a soldier you knew in Iraq. You asked yourself then if "What we had done in Iraq" was worth this young man's life. What do you think now? Has the Iraq war been worth all of the sacrifice?

A: When I saw the tomb at Arlington of one of my soldiers -- and that was one I had done a lot of counseling with and knew pretty well -- it's one of those questions that ... I'm having trouble putting it into words. It's hard to describe.   Continued...

<p>The cover of "Faith Under Fire: An Army Chaplain's Memoir" buy U.S. Army chaplain Roger Benimoff. REUTERS/Random House/Handout</p>