Home front loved ones

Faith Deployed...Again
More daily encouragement for military wives 
Authors: Jocelyn Green, Copyright @ 2011


Includes a bonus section of devotions written for and by Blue Star Moms.

Additional reading:

Practical insights in caring for the home front


Post-traumatic stress

Faith Under Fire
An army chaplain's memoir
Authors: Roger Benimoff, Eve Conant, Copyright @ 2009

Unable to make sense of the senseless, Benimoff turned to his journal. What did it mean to believe in a God who would allow the utter horror and injustice of war? Did He want these brave young men and women to die? In his darkest moment, Benimoff wrote: Why am I so angry? I do not want anything to do with God. I am sick of religion. It is a crutch for the weak.

Benimoff’s spiritual crisis heightened upon his return home to Fort Carson, Colorado. He withdrew emotionally from wife and sons, creating tensions that threatened to shatter the family. He was assigned to work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he counseled returning soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder–until he was diagnosed himself with PTSD.

Finding himself in the role of patient rather than caregiver, connecting as an equal with his fellow sufferers, and revisiting scriptural readings that once again rang with meaning and truth, he began his most decisive battle: for the love of his family and for the chance to once again open his heart to the healing grace of God. 

Intimate and powerful, drawing on Benimoff’s and his wife’s journals, Faith Under Fire chronicles a spiritual struggle through war, loss, and the hard process of learning to believe again.

Rule Number Two
Lessons I learned in a combat hospital
Author: Dr. Heidi Kraft, Copyright @ 2007

Some Marines, Kraft realized, and even some of their doctors, would be damaged by war in the ways that she couldn't repair. And sometimes, people were repaired in ways she never expected. Rule Number Two is a powerful firsthand account of providing comfort amid the chaos of war, and of what it takes to endure.

The War at Home
One family's fight against PTSD
Author: Shawn J. Gourley, Copyright @ 2011

In February 2003, Shawn Gourley's husband, Justin, returned home from his tour in the Middle East where his ship was deployed to assist Operation Enduring Freedom. Cracks were already showing in his personality, cracks that would widen dramatically into full-on fractures by the time he returned home in June 2004 from his third tour that marked the end of his military career. For the next 4 1/2 years their relationship was very difficult, and at times, downright terrifying for her and the children. It wasn't until January 2009 that Justin was able to get treatment. He was finally diagnosed with PTSD in August 2009. Those are the broad strokes of their story, but the details of how Shawn fought to save her family will leave you transfixed until the end.

Additional reading:

Practical insights in caring for families coping with Post-Traumatic Stress and TBI

Article - After Iraq: A story of love, war, and faith
Redbook article - By Rebekah Benimoff, as told to Eve Conant

Blog - Marine Wife Unplugged

Fact Sheets - United States Department of Veterans Affairs

FAQ -  Army Behavioral Health


Traumatic brain injury

In An Instant
A family's journey of love and healing
Authors: Lee and Bob Woodruff, Copyright @ 2008

Learning to Stay
A Novel
Author: Erin Celello, Copyright 2013

Note that this is a work of fiction, but carefully researched to portray the "invisible war" that exists in the homes (and minds) of some returning service men and women. ​For more information, Operation We Are Here recommends this review by Stars and Stripes' Spouse Calls columnist, Terri Barnes - LINK.


Wounded warriors

Beyond the Battlefield
The war goes on for the severely wounded
Author: David Wood, Copyright @ 2011

Wood, who has covered wars in Africa, Central America and the Middle East, has made nine reporting trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has accompanied soldiers and Marines on numerous combat operations. A former correspondent for Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Newhouse News Service and the Baltimore Sun, he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting.

As Wood's work revealed, one of the enduring legacies of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the young Americans who have come home severely, catastrophically wounded. They come home not to parades and honor guards and flags, but with terribly burned faces, amputated limbs, traumatic brain injury and other psychological wounds. And once home, veterans and their loved ones are often left alone to deal with years of recovery and the lingering effects of those injuries. And yet that is the good news, Wood said. A decade ago most of them would have died on the battlefield. They are now being saved, thanks to fast-paced improvements in military trauma medicine. Yet the long-term quality of life for them is uncertain, and the costs of lifetime care can be staggering. There are more than 16,000 of them, and while many Americans are eager to know them and to offer help where it's needed, they are largely without voice, invisible and unknown to most of us.

Beyond the Battlefield changes that.

Hope Unseen
The story of the U.S. Army's first blind active-duty officer
Author: Captain Scotty Smiley with Doug Crandall, Copyright @ 2010

                                      Blindness became Captain Scotty Smiley’s journey of
                                      supreme testing. As he lay helpless in the hospital, he
                                      resented the theft of his dreams—becoming a CEO, a Delta
                                      Force operator, or a four-star general.

                                      With his wife Tiffany’s love and the support of his family and
                                      friends, Scotty’s response became God’s transforming
                                      moment. The injury only intensified his indomitable spirit.
                                      Since the moment he jumped out of a hospital bed and
                                      forced his way through nurses and cords to take a simple
                                      shower, Captain Scotty Smiley has climbed Mount Rainier,
                                      won an ESPY as Best Outdoor Athlete, surfed, skydived,
                                      become a father, earned an MBA from Duke, taught
                                      leadership at West Point, commanded an army company, and won the MacArthur Leadership Award.

Scotty and Tiffany Smiley have lived out a faith so real that it will inspire you to question your own doubts, push you to serve something bigger than yourself, and encourage you to cling to a Hope Unseen.

Refined by Fire
A family's triumph of love and faith
Authors: LTC (RET) Brian Birdwell, Mel Birdwell, Ginger Kolbaba, Copyright @ 2004

Additional reading:

Practical insights in caring for wounded warrior families

The War Within: One More Step at a Time
Author: G. B. Trudeau


Loss of a loved one

A young widow's journey through brokenness and back
Author: Jennifer Silvera, Copyright @ 2009


Heart of a Hawk
One family's sacrifice and journey toward healing 
             Author: Deborah H. Tainsh, Copyright @ 2006

Bringing Home the Fallen
Honoring our nation's fallen and their families (movie)
Emergent Films, Directed by Cliff Springs, Copyright @ 2014

Taking Chance
When one falls, another brings him home (movie)
             Writer: Michael Strobl, Actor: Kevin Bacon, Copyright @ 2009

Additional reading:

Practical insights in caring for loved ones of the fallen

A Good Friend for Bad Times: Helping others through grief
Authors: Deborah E. Bowen, Susan L. Strickler

Military Widow: A Survival Guide
Authors:  Joanne M. Steen, M. Regina Asaro

Surviving the Folded Flag: Parents of war share stories of coping, courage, and faith
Author:  Deborah H. Tainsh

The Art of Helping: What to say and do when someone is hurting
Author: Lauren Littauer Briggs

Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Understanding Life after a Loved One's Death & Understanding How to Help the Bereaved Around Us
Author: Kimberly Rose Carolan

Insights in caring
It is extremely difficult to understand what others are going through if you've not walked in their shoes.

Sometimes reading stories can help to capture a glimpse into the lives of others.

To help civilians better understand the military community, I have compiled a list of books that can help.

While we all have our stories to share (and they are many other great books out there), I have found that the books listed here are especially helpful. They are listed by topic: 

  • Caring & comfort
 To help you understand
HomeAbout meTestimonialsBooks for the military community

The sequel to the award-winning Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives.

As husbands are being deployed multiple times, the women left behind desperately need encouragement and strength to maintain the home front. If you are lonely, overwhelmed by the needs around you, and stressed by a unique lifestyle, you can be equpped to respond biblically to the daily struggles that threaten to wear you down.

Faith Deployed...Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives is filled with:

  • wisdom and insight from over twenty-five Christian wives, representing every branch of the military
  • stories of the unchanging character of God
  • encouragement, strength, community, and hope for you, the hero at home.
As he left for his second tour of duty as an Army chaplain in Iraq, Roger Benimoff noted in his journal: I am excited and I am scared. I am on fire for God...He is my hope, strength, and focus.

But not long after returning to Iraq, the burdens of his job–the memorial services for soldiers killed in action, the therapy sessions after contact with the enemy, the perilous excursions “outside the wire” while under enemy fire–began to overwhelm him. Amid the dust, heat, and blood of Iraq, Benimoff felt the pillar of strength he’d always relied on to hold him up–his faith in God–begin to crumble.
When Lieutenant Commander Heidi Kraft's twin son and daughter were fifteen months old, she was deployed to Iraq. Kraft's job, as a clinical psychologist in the U.S. Navy, was to uncover the wounds of war that a surgeon would never see. She put away thoughts of her children back home, acclimated to the sound of incoming rockets, and learned how to listen to the most traumatic stories a war zone has to offer.

Working as part of a tight-knit surgical unit, Kraft was reminded often of the old TV show M*A*S*H. Her deployment bore out one of the show's lessons in particular: "There are two rules of war. Rule number one is that young men die. Rule number two is that doctors can't change rule number one."
When your soldier returns home to you, it should be a happy and joyful time. You are glad your spouse is safe and sound back home and can't wait to get your life going again. Everything should be great! But what if the homecoming is anything but great? What if suddenly you can't connect, or you feel worlds apart? What if your vet is no longer interested in going out or being around other people? Maybe your spouse isn't sleeping well, or worse, becoming violent while asleep. Your vet may not be reconnecting with the kids and may seem uninterested in any new additions to the family. What if your spouse gets angry at small things or even becomes violent? What do you do? Do you ignore it and keep thinking it will get better if you give it more time?
In January 2006, Lee and Bob Woodruff seemed to have it all–a happy marriage, four beautiful children, and marvelous careers. Bob had just been named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight, but then, while he was embedded with the military in Iraq, an improvised explosive device went off near the tank he was riding in. He and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, were hit, and Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him.

In an Instant is the frank and compelling account of how Bob and Lee Woodruff’s lives came together, were blown apart and then were miraculously put together again–and how they persevered, with grit but also with humor, through intense trauma and fear. More than a dual memoir of love and courage, In an Instant is an important, wise, and inspiring guide to coping with tragedy–and an extraordinary drama of marriage, family, war, and nation.
In March 2011, The Huffington Post commissioned its veteran war correspondent, David Wood, to document the struggles of severely wounded veterans, their families, and the medics, surgeons, nurses, psychologists and researchers dedicated to their healing. Wood spent nine months in their world.

The result is our third e-book, Beyond the Battlefield, an
intimate portrait of the soldiers and Marines who volunteered for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what happened to them after bomb blasts and bullets changed them forever. First published as a 10-part series, this e-book is an expanded version, including a foreword and several new chapters, as well as some of the most poignant photography and revelatory graphics from the original series.
When hijacked American Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, LTC (RET) Brian Birdwell was only 15 to 20 yards away. He stepped out into the corridor and was instantly engulfed in flames—burns consumed 60 percent of his body, with almost 40 percent of them third-degree. ​Thirty-plus operations and countless physical therapy sessions later, his recovery has truly been remarkable, and spiritually he and his family are stronger than ever before.

Brian and his wife, Mel, tell their captivating story of God's grace and sovereignty. 
Note: While this is not a story of a military family, I believe extremely insightful regarding the grief process of this young widow.

After Jennifer's husband, a police officer, died in a line of duty accident, grief upended her life. Believe follows the story of her long road out of darkness and her struggle to believe in anything after she'd lost everything. As she recounts her journey back into the light, Jennifer offers empathy and encouragement to those who have experienced loss, including those who have been widowed far too young. In Jennifer's story, readers can find reason to believe.
David and Deborah Tainsh were living the happiest years of their lives until the dark morning of February 12, 2004, when a six a.m. knock at the door brought the news that their son, Sergeant Patrick Tainsh, had been killed in Iraq. Patrick, David’s only child, was the pride of his life. He was the son who overcame a rebellious, drug-addicted youth to become an outstanding U.S. Army Cavalry Scout, posthumously awarded the Bronze and Silver Stars for saving the lives of his commanding officer and other soldiers before succumbing to his own wounds. In the wake of their loss, David and Deborah battle horrific grief and anger while trying to hold their marriage—and one another—together in an unforgettable journey toward healing.
Bringing The Fallen Home is a powerful and emotional 58-minute film about real American heroes--the brave fallen warriors who gave everything, and the brave families they left behind. The families in the film voluntarily open their homes to the filmmakers because they wanted to be a voice for their fallen loves ones and remind Americans of the great sacrifice being made to keep our country safe.

The DVD should be watched by Military Casualty Assistance Officers as well as chaplains, chaplain assistants, honor guard members, family readiness groups, first sergeants, and leaders at every level of command.

Comfort & caring

Paws to Comfort
An everyday guide to learning how you can help mend our disconnected world
Author: Jen Marr with Skye Quinn, Copyright @ 2019

If anyone could understand us, it should be you. Yet we continue to drift further and further apart… Written from the military family members’ different perspectives, Closing The Gap: Understanding Your Service(wo)man is designed to reconnect military families with their non-military friends and family members at a time when they need each other more than ever. For the first time, facts and common misconceptions about the military lifestyle have been accessibly presented and composed in a manner that specifically appeals to friends and families of military families. This book is meant to apply to all families and friends of our service(wo)men of every branch within the military. It was written in order to make a positive difference by giving people within the civilian world the information they need to understand the experiences of and reconnect with those that protect their freedoms and rights.
Elise Sabato is proud of her husband, Brad, for serving his country...and grateful when he returns home to her. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq has turned him from a thoughtful, brilliant, and patient man into someone quite different....someone who requires more care and attention than Elise can give while working in a demanding law firm. And when Brad ends up on his family’s farm, hundreds of miles away, she wonders where their marriage is headed.

Elise must decide between the life she always wanted and the life she seems to be living…until she finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places: a lovable dog named Jones who teaches her that when the best-laid plans take unexpected turns, sometimes you end up right where you were meant to be.
One of the silent, virtually unseen journeys that take place every day across the country.

Special features:

Bearing Witness: A featurette that includes interviews with Chance Phelps' friends and family as well as a section on the real Lt. Col. Michael Strobl

The Real Chance Phelps: Interviews, home movies, and
personal photos help to paint a more vivid picture of this hero

From Script to Screen: A featurette on how Taking Chance was made, from concept through production

Deleted Scene: I'll Watch Over Him
Copyright 2008 - 2022 Benita Koeman, Operation We Are Here.  All rights reserved.
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Military lifestyle

Closing the Gap
Understanding your service(wo)man
Author: Yvonne Jones, Copyright @ 2012

If anyone could understand us, it should be you. Yet we continue to drift further and further apart… Written from the military family members’ different perspectives, Closing The Gap: Understanding Your Service(wo)man is designed to reconnect military families with their non-military friends and family members at a time when they need each other more than ever. For the first time, facts and common misconceptions about the military lifestyle have been accessibly presented and composed in a manner that specifically appeals to friends and families of military families. This book is meant to apply to all families and friends of our service(wo)men of every branch within the military. It was written in order to make a positive difference by giving people within the civilian world the information they need to understand the experiences of and reconnect with those that protect their freedoms and rights.