Operation Restored Warrior seeks to mend invisible wounds
May 17, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (May 17, 2012) -- When Chris Fields was a command sergeant major, especially when heading 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, he developed quite a tough guy reputation.
He was blown up no less than 14 times during deployments. He's escaped the deadly sights of snipers. A Facebook page was recently erected in his honor, sharing Chuck Norris-esque tidbits such as "Chris Fields once beat the sun at a staring contest."
While the casing remained resilient and unflappable, few people were aware that a well-known, silent enemy threatened to dismantle Fields at the core. Though he didn't realize it, post traumatic stress disorder and the tribulations of combat where teaming up to turn him into somebody unrecognizable.
"We came back from Sumara in 2006," said Fields. "We had four suicides, back to back. Then we had two others die in car accidents. We suffered six casualties out of combat that just destroyed me inside."
In order to find an effective program to help his Soldiers through PTSD and combat stress, Fields approached Justin Roberts, a newly-assigned chaplain for Task Force No Slack.
"I told him 'Get your fanny out there and find me a program that's different than medicating my guys.' What he found was this great program up in Colorado," said Fields.
The program he found was Operation Restored Warrior, a five-day, faith-based program designed to "rescue, rebuild and restore what was lost and stolen from our warriors' lives," according to the ORW website.
At the goading of his chaplain and commander, Fields attended the program to see if it would be a worthwhile venture for his troubled Soldiers. He went back home with a very different attitude.
"After five days, I came out with a yoke of burden pulled off of me," said Fields.
Facing another tough tour in Afghanistan, he feels that his first trip to ORW was something of a godsend.
"I'm not quite confident that I would have been able to pull it out otherwise," said Fields. "Going to Afghanistan with the troubles and tribulations that were piled up inside my head, I felt that I had no hope."
"It really changed his life dramatically," agreed Fields' wife, Debra. "I do think, had it not been for him going through this program prior to his Afghan deployment, I'd be married to a different man today."
Through extensive counseling and spiritual exploration, Chris was able to evaluate the causes of his grief and anxiety.
"It's very humbling," said Debra. "It breaks you down and gets to the root of all the evils. It builds the warrior back up and gives him a sense of purpose."
Following his first visit to ORW, Chris returned to the program, this time as a witness, acting as a spokesman for the new warriors that had arrived in search of peace.
"As a CSM, my trials and tribulations were nothing compared to the privates and the corporals, the guys who were in there day in and day out," said Chris. "If the CSM can come back with major issues and problems, there are probably many enlisted Soldiers out there carrying this weight."
Wanting to bring the message of ORW to his own Soldiers, Chris addressed them on the PT stand.
"I stood right up and said 'Hey. I had problems, and I sought help.' If I'm this guy who's 10-feet tall and bulletproof, and I sought help, it's definitely socially acceptable for them to seek help," said Chris.
Chris feels that there's a lack of command influence to set Soldiers at ease about seeking help without fear of retribution. Wanting to reach out on a larger scale, he put his testimony on video for the ORW website, www.operationrestoredwarrior.org, to be viewed by all.
"I've tried to share my husband's story and his testimony," said Debra. "There are a lot of Soldiers who know him. When they see it, it almost makes it ok for them to talk about it with him. It's ok to talk about this; don't be scared of it."
Chris has since retired from the Army after 30 years of service. His desire to keep serving his fellow Soldier drove him to become a permanent counselor at ORW, keeping with their philosophy of "warriors helping warriors."
"I can't put a monetary value on what it means to me just to be in their presence," said Chris. "They're my heroes. To be able to give back in this program, it's a lifetime accomplishment."
Chris and Debra urge troubled Soldiers or concerned spouses to contact the people at ORW by logging onto the website and submitting an email.
The program, with program houses in Colorado and Virginia, relies on private funding. Program directors invite Families to Buffalo Wild Wings in Clarksville May 24, where 10 percent of proceeds earned between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. will benefit the program.