U.S. Army Chaplain Darren Turner and his wife, Heather, faced the trauma of war on the battlefield and the home front when he was suddenly deployed to Iraq days after he entered the military chaplaincy.
A decade later, their story is portrayed in the movie “Indivisible,” which opens Friday (Oct. 26) and features “Grey’s Anatomy” actors Justin Bruening and Sarah Drew.
The film portrays the struggles that the Turners faced, including their marital separation. Now reconciled, they worship at a Presbyterian Church in America congregation near Fort Bragg, N.C.
Darren Turner, 45, an active-duty chaplain, talked with Religion News Service about the stresses on military families, the roles of chaplains and coping with faith and doubt.
The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Why did you allow your story of the life of a military chaplain to be made into a movie?
We were approached by David Evans, the director, and the main guy from Graceworks Pictures, six years ago. He contacted us and said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea already about a chaplain in the military, wanted to do a faith-based movie, and then I came upon your story.” At first, we were kind of taken aback, thinking there’s nothing really movie-worthy about our story. But he said, “It’s going to encourage a lot of people.”
Chaplains are unarmed and you were traveling with soldiers in places where hidden bombs could blow at any moment. How would you say that affected you and how did it help or hinder you from helping others?
In a combat situation, my chaplain assistant did carry a weapon and I was surrounded by other soldiers. Everybody except the chaplain carries a weapon when in a combat zone. So I felt very comfortable if we did get into some kind of situation where there was a firefight that I was going to be well protected.
Even though you had that protection, you suddenly were thrown into combat situations when you were really fresh into the military.
There were several times when I was in a convoy or helping the guys on a mission where we did get shot at. That certainly changes the dynamic from what I was used to at Fort Stewart, getting ready with these soldiers and doing practices in rehearsal combat situations. It’s totally different when you were actually getting shot at or actually having bombs going off around you. That certainly created a lot of the stress and tension in this brand-new chaplain, three months after showing up for my first day of work.
The movie depicts your challenges in war and your initial inability to share your experience with your wife as she kept the family together at home — both before and after your deployment. What are some of your key pieces of advice for couples in this situation — military couples?
I came home and I did not think that my wife would understand what I had gone through. My heart was broken at losing so many guys. I bent in on myself, so to speak, and didn’t let her in to even see if she could possibly understand or help. I chose to be around my buddies more frequently than I did my own family because they got it. That’s a horrible decision that I made. I hope that no one ever makes that again, but that’s the reality of coming back from a situation like that. I was basically living like a single guy for 15 months. So my advice for folks in the situation today is, trust your spouse. Get to know them, get to know their story. Don’t just hang onto your story, thinking it’s more important than their story. They’ve been through battles too — maybe not getting shot at but the daily battles of life.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Adelle M. Banks