Air Force chaplain Charles Seligman, then a captain, during his 2005 deployment to Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Charles Seligman)
Air Force chaplain Charles Seligman, then a captain, during his 2005 deployment to Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Charles Seligman)

Chaplain 'forever changed' by war

CBF-endorsed Maj. Charles Seligman, an Air Force chaplain, is sharing his combat journal with ABPnews readers beginning today. He hopes it will help others who, like himself, suffered deep emotional wounds at war.

By Jeff Brumley

They don’t give Purple Hearts for the kind of wounds Air Force Maj. Charles Seligman suffered in Iraq, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

“I was what they called a wounded healer,” said Seligman, a CBF-endorsed chaplain who returned from that 2005 tour — his fourth — suffering from the emotional trauma that comes from ministering to Americans suffering from the most gruesome combat injuries imaginable.

Seligman, now 41, documented that deployment in a journal that he is now sharing with ABPnews and its readers. The 18-part series begins today on the ABPnews blog, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and will continue every Wednesday.

The journal was originally e-mailed to family, close friends and fellow service members as a way for Seligman to cope with the monotony and savagery of war. He had no idea at the time how much he would need those writings and photographs for years to come.

His duties at the time included ministering to stressed-out military convoy operators and working at a military hospital.

“That deployment took a lot out of me because of the day-to-day activity of our convoy drivers and being at a major trauma center in the middle of a combat zone,” said Seligman.

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Meanwhile, he was also visiting troops at forward operating bases, leading charity events in Iraqi neighborhoods and leading worship services in hangars and on flight lines.

But it was in the hospital where Seligman said he was most shaken. The facility was one that cared for wounded Americans being prepared for evacuation from Iraq. They included everything from the walking wounded to the most horribly wounded.

“Seeing lives that were going to be forever changed, bodies that were mangled — I will never be the same person,” he said.

Seligman said he’s been on a slow-but-steady path of healing ever since and part of it now includes sharing his experiences — though dark and cynical in places — with the wider world.

He also hopes those who haven't been in the military will appreciate the sacrifices of American service men and women, and understand the role of combat chaplains.

“I hope by sharing these experiences that someone out there may be able to relate with what I went through,” he said. “There might be someone who reads an entry and relates enough to say, ‘I’m not the only one in the world who experienced that.’”

Click here to read the first installment of 'Forever Changed.'