Dan Nigolian

Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, Retired

The enemy couldn’t kill me and I resented it. They shot me out of the sky and I survived. Their bullets riddled the ground all around me but never found their mark. A car bomb exploded in the middle of my convoy and I walked away. They couldn’t hit me from 50 feet. They even tried to destroy my family thousands of miles away.

When it came time to retire, I went in to have a VA claim filed for me. As the guy reviewed my records, he asked me if I’d ever been tested for PTSD.

I was ten-foot tall, bulletproof and had a big red “S” on my chest. I was a preacher, I counseled guys with PTSD, I was one of God’s guys. Of course I didn’t have PTSD! But I agreed to be tested anyway.

Scoring 100 meant that you had the worst PTSD possible. I got a 99.

My wife had seen it 10 years earlier. I was having flashbacks and waking up in the middle of the night to do perimeter checks. One time, I hit the floor when a car alarm went off. I couldn’t make decisions and was irritable all the time. I was a different man than the one she had married. My bride of 34 years was scared.

Dan Nigolian Accent
I was feeling guilty because I couldn’t beat this and it was hurting my family. I hated the idea of seeing a psychologist and being on medication. But I hated damaging my relationships even worse, so I finally agreed to get help.

I have concluded that it takes more courage to face what’s inside you than to face the enemy. I’d be delighted to go back to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia or any of those other places than to look in the mirror every morning and face that image.

As I continue to fight this I’m learning to appreciate the present. Right here and right now, I am loved by God and by my family. He doesn’t care about my rank or my theological degrees or anything like that. Despite knowing me deeply, he loves me—to my surprise and relief.

It was being exposed to the death brought on by war that led to my own personal battle. But there’s one person who’s defeated death and that’s Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15). So he can defeat the effects of death in me. And that’s my hope and my rest.

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