Hernando Peña

Master Sergeant, US Army, Retired

I was deployed away from my wife, Mari, and my 16-day-old son two months after the Twin Towers fell. After missing the first five months of my son’s life, I returned home and decided to retire after many years in the Army.

We thought things were going to settle down so we decided to have another child. But my retirement was stopped and when my new daughter was about a year old I was deployed again for twelve months.

The trauma from the first six months was intense. As I lead a team in tracking down insurgents, I witnessed some of my men getting killed—men that I had desperately wanted to return to their wives and children in one piece.

And then I found myself in the middle of an IED blast that shook me severely and left me with a brain injury.

When I returned home, I resubmitted my paperwork for retirement and this time it was accepted.

Hernando Pena Accent
As I tried to leave the war behind me, I found that I had actually brought it home with me to my family. The flashbacks and nightmares led to jumpiness and anxiety. Where I used to be just irritable, I was now unleashing a full-blown rage.

As my drinking became heavy and my moral compass began to spin out of control, I began to see my life accelerating in a downward spiral. I needed help, but I’ll let my wife tell the rest of the story.

Hernando went from being a husband and father who was an attentive, kind, affectionate gentleman to a paranoid, hallucinating, spirit-crushing stranger.

Though I was his safe place, I was also the target of his rage. As I struggled to cope with this new chapter in our marriage, I became increasingly numb and depressed. It was the only way I knew how to survive.

I wish I could say that I was strong, that I didn’t want to lose my marriage, and that I wanted to please God. But the truth was, I wanted to run.

That’s when I received an email from a friend, inviting me to a church to hear someone speak about combat trauma. As they described the symptoms, my jaw dropped. It was like she was describing Hernando and me.

I began to pray with desperation and hope. Before they even knew our story, a couple from church asked us to get together with them once a week to pray. As they learned our story, they began to immerse us in the Bible, showing Hernando how many aspects of his life were reflected in the story of King David. He was a warrior that turned his combat trauma into psalms sung to God (you can find David’s story in the Old Testament and his psalms beginning on page 351 of this book).

Slowly, my husband’s heart began to soften. I knew that I’d never have the man that I married, but God gave me a deep love for the new man that my husband had become.

Life is still challenging but I believe that God will continue to light the path that we are on together.

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