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Greater u.s. military involvement overseas has created a challenging situation for hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve personnel, their families, their communities, and their churches.

In July 1999, after President Clinton ordered 33,000 Guard and Reserve members to support nato operations in the former Yugoslavia, Charles L. Cragin, acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, declared, "We really don't have a Reserve anymore," since the forces had been so frequently deployed to fulfill vital functions in times of combat.

But Cragin couldn't have envisioned the huge impact of the 9/11 attacks on the Guard and Reserve. Most Guard members signed up thinking they would serve their country in the wake of floods and hurricanes, or, at most, in international peacekeeping efforts. But the war against terrorism has meant putting Guard members into a constant state of extreme vigilance, demanded, for example, by insurgents who will set off a car bomb in order to lure recovery troops, only to set off a second bomb to increase the casualties.

When soldiers return home, this constant extreme vigilance translates into mental health challenges. According to a Walter Reed Army Institute of Research study reported by The New York Times, 19 percent of soldiers who served in Iraq "screened positive for a potential mental health disorder." Members of the Guard who served in Iraq scored even higher. Plus, "once home, National Guardsmen are largely left to their own devices," said the Times.

Chaplain Major John Morris of the Minnesota Army National Guard confirmed this for CT. Out of the 52 state militias, he is aware of only 5 that have "intentional reintegration efforts." Regular forces return to stateside ...

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Christianity Today
Beyond Yellow Ribbons
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In the Magazine

July 2006

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