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Marines returning home from deployment sometimes struggle with combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Protestant Chaple hopes to combat this issue by inviting former Marine, Phil Downer, the president of Discipleship Network of America, to speak at the Military Family Conference at the Paradise Point Officers' Club aboard the base, March 11.

Photo by Pvt. Victor Barrera

Former Marine provides helpful words, addresses combat stress

23 Feb 2012 | Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

During a deployment, service members often endure a daunting spectrum of struggles and challenges that many have never faced. These warriors return home with injuries, baring battle scars with a story not always told. There are also some who functional on the outside, but who battle invisible wounds that can’t be fixed by a doctor with a first aid kit. To some, losing a limb can be less painful than losing a friend.

Combat stress is a part of what service members continually face. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is becoming more aware of its cancerous effects on its warriors. The Protestant Chapel hopes to combat this issue by inviting former Marine, Phil Downer, the president of Discipleship Network of America, to speak at the Military Family Conference at the Paradise Point Officers’ Club aboard the base, March 11.

“We’d like to give them the tools needed to find healing from within,” said Bob Uber, the director of field ministry with DNA, who will also speak at the conference.

Downer said his mission is to encourage and help service members and their families operate as a team and understand the methods of dealing with conflicts.

Downer did not always provide the dosage of helpful lessons and tips. The teacher was once a student himself. After returning from the Vietnam War, Downer struggled with combat stress.

“(After the Vietnam War), I came home with operational stress (and), post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Downer. “I thought I left the war behind when I came home, and I married the girl of my dreams and found that I brought the war home. That war within - the pain, the guilt, the hurt and the stories of lost friends - impacted every day of my life in a negative way. It hurt my marriage and my performance at work, so I carried it with me.”

Downer found that speaking to someone about what he felt was the first step toward overcoming the stress. After overcoming his challenges, he went on to publish the book “From Hell to Eternity,” which recounts his experiences and how it impacted his family and relations. He will also be sharing the stories told in the book at the conference.

“It’s a book of hope, because it’s healing,” said Uber. “It’s a resource that he’s produced out of his own life experiences to help others, and it’s a recommended resource from a Marine to a Marine.”

Downer has been speaking to service members across the nation for more than 10 years. Families will have the opportunity to share their experiences or ask questions during the conference, but will not be pressured to speak. The goal of the conference is to inform families and units about ways to overcome combat stress.

“I talk about core values, the values of the military, the great heritage of service members and also the subjects of marriage, children, being a father, mother, husband or wife,” said Downer. “It is very gratifying to be able to talk about this topic with the Marines, because our goal is to heal our service members.”

Uber added, America has done well to honor its military, but what they’re committed to is moving from honoring to healing them.

Downer will also be speaking to units at the officers’ club, March 12 and 13, at each units’ discretion.

For more information, call 423-667-1869.