Victor Marx is an author, filmmaker, motivational speaker and missionary. He's also a former Marine who enlisted in the Corps to escape memories of his formative years of abuse and trauma.
As a child, he was nearly drowned by his stepfather, among other abuses Marx detailed when he shared his story May 18 at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Moral Leadership Luncheon at Memorial Chapel.
Years of abuse weighed down on him: Marx said he knows what it is like to put a pistol inside one's mouth. He's done it before.
"I was tortured, according to the experts," Marx said. "My mother was married six times. I went to 14 schools and lived in 17 houses...I had 123 visits to a trauma specialist."
He also spoke to leaders at the Pentagon May 16 about sharing his message on resiliency to broader audiences. His week also included meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
"From children to combat vets, no one is immune to trauma," he said. "Just for some of us it's a little more extreme."
Marx teaches people how to allow the trauma from their past to become driving motivators for their calling and life's purpose, regardless of the location.
That's the message of hope Marx and his ministry has taken to over 900 juvenile facilities in the U.S. over the last 14 years, and since 2014 a message taken to Christians in the Middle East who have been targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But there's also a message of redemption.
"Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other person--it's only going to hurt you," Marx said.
"This is a man who has experienced a lot in his life, and overcame bad circumstances that can speak to a broad audience," said U.S. Army Chap. (Maj.) Derek W. Murray, deputy chaplain, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. "Every event in our lives can be used to make us stronger people. Being able to grow from that is the goal; it either stunts your growth, or makes you stronger."
Videos of Marx's international work in action are posted on his YouTube channel. He and his wife of 27 years just returned from yet another trip to Iraq doing high risk missionary work less than a month ago.
"We've had extremely successful operations that lead to another, and another," Marx said. "My ministry has a security and intel side--and why not in the days that we live in--but my ministry has caught the attention of both good and bad people. [For example] I had a beheading threat last year. But I really have a true desire to decrease the activity of ISIS, particularly with recruitment...and young people in our country radicalized through a computer."
Still, Marx said there's other work to be done among the U.S. military populace, overseas and stateside. He returned to JBM-HH on May 20 to speak to chaplains and their assistants who comprise unit ministry teams to discuss spiritual fitness force-wide.
Countless people go into the military with the determination to make a significant impact and a desire to change the world; many of them experienced life-changing trauma prior to enlisting, just like himself, he said.
"I'm a messenger of hope to service members who need help recognizing they have a problem, or others who feel they need permission to seek help," Marx said.
Spiritual fitness assessment
Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen are trained to be resilient: physically, emotionally, and spiritually able to be utilized by the military for a greater purpose, according to Marx. A key emphasis by chaplains is the spirituality component of troops' resilience--a difficult component to achieve for a growing populace of service members who are less spiritually engaged and/or facing extremely high tempo schedules, according to Murray.
"The three main objectives for the Chaplains Corps is to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen," said U.S. Army Sgt. David Dwight, chaplain assistant for the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). "When it comes to nurturing the living, the Chaplain Corps isn't falling short--but I believe the rest of the Army is."
Dwight has observed a decline in the number of service members who seek chaplains' assistance for spiritual nurturing, and he's concerned about that, he said. Still, Marx's message of resiliency could help rebuild and reinvigorate service members' spiritual resilience, according to Murray.
"We have a lot of people who come from backgrounds that aren't so good," said Murray. "The resiliency we are stressing is not just in regards to training and prepping for a deployment--it's also to deal with past issues--and how to overcome bad circumstances."
Murray would like to invite Marx back to the NCR for a public screening of Marx's film "Triggered" once it's released later this year. It's a film that focuses on the multifaceted effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the realities of those affected by trauma.
"This is a tool that could be used across the entire force," Murray said.
"The Marine Corps was very good to me," Marx added, in reference to how much his life, and others' lives have changed following his separation from the military at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, where he served as a weapons instructor and competitive shooter. "I was restless in [traditional] ministry."