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Faith Under Fire: An Army Chaplain's Memoir [Hardcover]

By Roger Benimoff (Author) & Eve Conant (Author)
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Item Number 416161  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.52" Width: 5.54" Height: 1"
Weight:   0.87 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 24, 2009
Publisher   Crown
ISBN  0307408817  
EAN  9780307408815  

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Alternate Formats List Price Our Price Item Number Availability
Hardcover $ 23.95 $ 20.36 416161
Paperback $ 15.00 $ 12.75 1446104 In Stock
Item Description...
Chronicles an Army chaplain's spiritual journey through war, homecoming, healing, and the process of learning to believe again, as he faces and then reconciles his doubt with his very own faith and finds God in his heart once again.

Publishers Description
“Running away from God doesn't work. I had tried.”
—Roger Benimoff

As he left for his second tour of duty as an Army chaplain in Iraq, Roger Benimoff noted in his journal: I am excited and I am scared. I am on fire for God...He is my hope, strength, and focus.

But not long after returning to Iraq, the burdens of his job–the memorial services for soldiers killed in action, the therapy sessions after contact with the enemy, the perilous excursions “outside the wire” while under enemy fire–began to overwhelm him. Amid the dust, heat, and blood of Iraq, Benimoff felt the pillar of strength he'd always relied on to hold him up–his faith in God–begin to crumble.

Unable to make sense of the senseless, Benimoff turned to his journal. What did it mean to believe in a God who would allow the utter horror and injustice of war? Did He want these brave young men and women to die? In his darkest moment, Benimoff wrote: Why am I so angry? I do not want anything to do with God. I am sick of religion. It is a crutch for the weak.

Benimoff's spiritual crisis heightened upon his return home to Fort Carson, Colorado. He withdrew emotionally from wife and sons, creating tensions that threatened to shatter the family. He was assigned to work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he counseled returning soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder–until he was diagnosed himself with PTSD.

Finding himself in the role of patient rather than caregiver, connecting as an equal with his fellow sufferers, and revisiting scriptural readings that once again rang with meaning and truth, he began his most decisive battle: for the love of his family and for the chance to once again open his heart to the healing grace of God.

Intimate and powerful, drawing on Benimoff's and his wife's journals, Faith Under Fire chronicles a spiritual struggle through war, loss, and the hard process of learning to believe again.
“In this moving and elegantly written book, Roger Benimoff provides penetrating insights into the human, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of war as well as how combat experiences affect those who fight. Faith Under Fire will be one of the classic memoirs of the Iraq war. It is brilliant.”
—H. R. McMaster, 71st Colonel, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and author of Dereliction of Duty

Faith Under Fire is a highly significant book. I gained more knowledge about the Army chaplaincy while reading it than I had in all my forty years of experience. This is an emotional and challenging book that will grab readers and pull them into Roger's fight for faith and intellectual honesty.”
—Richard Dayringer, Th.D., chaplain supervisor and author of six books, including The Heart of Pastoral Counseling
ROGER BENIMOFF was a chaplain in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2008. He spent two tours of duty in Iraq and was a chaplain in residence at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is currently a chaplain at Methodist Hospitals of Dallas. He lives in Texas with his wife and two children.

EVE CONANT is a staff writer for Newsweek, covering the evangelical movement, politics, social issues, and health.

Left seat ride

I am excited and I am scared. I am on fire for God . . .

—Army Chaplain Roger Benimoff just before start of his second deployment to Iraq

Maybe it was just another example of how war can warp your judgment, or at least how it warped mine. But I didn't question the impossibility of leading a prayer for forty people in less than sixty seconds. Forty members of our senior command and staff had crammed into a yellow tent at our new base, Camp Sykes, a crumbling, former Iraqi airbase on the outskirts of the ancient city of Tal Afar. We were not in friendly territory.

Tucked into Iraq's most northern corner, Tal Afar was an insurgent's haven. With its dizzying labyrinth of alleyways and beehive housing blocs, the remote city was the perfect place to stockpile weapons from bordering Syria. Hidden in those alleys just 10 kilometers from us were hundreds, if not thousands, of AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), improvised explosive devices, and antitank mines. Managing that arsenal was a growing army of technologically savvy Iraqi and foreign fighters who were, to put it mildly, displeased with our recent arrival.

First impressions always stick. I had one minute to assure these men and women, their metal chairs propped unevenly on the vinyl tent floor, that I was capable of being their spiritual and personal counselor for the next ten months. These were the people who made decisions that could spell life or death for the soldiers convoying “outside the wire” of our base and into Tal Afar. In the coming months it was likely some of these officers would be injured or killed, and we all knew it. If previous deployments were any guide, others might cave from emotional or mental stress and need to be airlifted out. There would be wives or husbands back home who would divorce them by satellite phone or e-mail. We all knew the stakes. We just didn't know who would be lucky and who wouldn't.

“Chaplain, let's begin the meeting,” offered Lieutenant Colonel Harrison. He was the deputy commander of our regiment, in charge of northern operations as more than six thousand soldiers, with attached units, shifted north from Baghdad to Tal Afar to stamp out the growing insurgency here. This had all been so hastily put together; just two weeks earlier we were settling down close to Baghdad when suddenly we were sent up North. We hadn't trained or planned for this region, and our base wasn't yet equipped for the type of military offenses that would be asked of our soldiers in the coming months.

Nor were we prepared on the spiritual level. When operations were set up at Camp Sykes, we'd have thousands of soldiers but only four chaplains, three Protestant and one Catholic. I would be the only chaplain for my squadron of a thousand soldiers. For now, I was also the acting regimental chaplain until my superior, Chaplain David Causey, arrived in two weeks.

“Brave Rifles, Sir,” I replied to Harrison. That was our motto in the Third Armored Cavalry. When approaching another cavalry soldier, you had to say “Brave Rifles,” and the other had to respond with “Veterans.” That dated back to 1847 when Gen. Winfield Scott, rallying the troops during the capture of Mexico City exclaimed, “Brave Rifles! Veterans! You have been baptized in fire and blood and have come out steel.” Sitting there in that vinyl tent that April morning, I did not suspect that in the next ten months I would also be baptized in blood. But it would be the blood of others, and I would not come out like steel.

I did know that my tongue was dry and my palms were sweating, even if the brutally hot days when soldiers joked about the “dry” 120-degree heat were still months away. At thirty-two, I was one of the Army's youngest chaplains, but after a short break in Fort Carson, Colorado, was starting my second tour in Iraq. I should have felt experienced, instead, I was petrified. I had already started ministering to the troops at Camp Sykes—one of our soldiers had been killed near Bagdad, and one of our Bradley crews had been hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED,—but I had yet to minister to our senior command. Forty officers from the regiment and subordinate squadrons, exhausted and harried, were looking to me for a momentary escape from their personal worries and from the complicated logistics of getting our squadron trained up to replace the outgoing one.

There I was with sixty seconds to give my first regimental Word of the Day. I cleared my throat and pulled a wrinkled piece of paper from my chest pocket. It was a story I had copied from a fellow chaplain, a sketch about a reporter interviewing God.

“If God granted 60 Minutes an interview, what would he say? When asked what surprises him most about mankind, He says it's that people are in a rush to grow up and then long to be children again; that they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health. When asked what are the most important lessons of life, he says he'd like people to learn that it takes years to build trust and only a few seconds to destroy it. That a rich person is not the one who has the most but who needs the least. That it's not enough to forgive others. People must also learn to forgive themselves.”

I looked up and tried to make eye contact with the men and women surrounding me. I had their attention. With only sixty seconds allotted to prayer, none of them could argue I was wasting too much of their time. I could smell the cheap plastic of our temporary shelter, momentary protection from the dry winds and organizational chaos outside. I took a deep breath and did my best to squeeze the high points of ten theology books into my remaining twenty seconds. “Many of us climb a ladder in life only to look down and discover we're on top of the wrong building. Think today about the building you are trying to scale, about what is most important to you in life. Please take a moment to do that.” I now had ten extra seconds for a short prayer.

“And now let's pray. God, we ask you to watch over our regiment and to protect those who are still moving north from Baghdad. Hold us in your hands and help us keep our eyes on you. Amen.”

I don't know whether I convinced the officers I was someone they could trust, but for some reason—perhaps the relief of finishing my first Word of the Day for the regimental command and staff—I felt incredibly hopeful, both for myself and for them.

There had been deaths in my first deployment—more than forty in the regiment—but the Army was learning and improving all the time. And so was I. I was learning how to counsel men and women in a war zone. These were people who were losing friends to snipers and wives to other men, often during the same week. Elation and despair. Life and death. Sixty-second prayers. A whole lifetime's worth of problems could descend on a person in the course of one deployment. In war, everything is accelerated.

The meeting in the tent went on for another hour or so, a familiar and intricate barrage of army talk on combat operations, communications, equipment status, intelligence, and personnel. When it wrapped up we all stood to salute the clearly exhausted Lieutenant Colonel and soon the tent was a churning sea of camouflage. That's when I noticed a soldier walk into the tent toward Harrison. I was about 10 feet away and couldn't hear what the soldier told him, but I saw his face flinch and then tighten. The colonel's brown eyes scanned the room, looking for someone, quickly settling on me as he issued my first order, “Chaplain, get over to your squadron right now—there might be casualties. . . .”

I don't remember what else he said because I was already running. We had only been on our base eleven days and already there were casualties? I had heard that the outgoing squadron hadn't been varying its entrances and exits to the city when they convoyed, meaning they were easier targets for insurgents. Please God, I thought, don't let this have been caused by a lack of planning, I ran 150 meters to our Tactical Operations Center. They had heard the incident might have involved a Stryker vehicle and an IED. I was moving quickly but I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach and anvils had been tied to my feet. Somewhere a whistle blew and the race began.


When it rains in Iraq, the sand immediately turns into mud, more like quicksand than the packed crystals you might leisurely track your footsteps through at the beach. The Army was, by now, well versed in the ways of this Iraqi mud. That's why, as I raced toward the chapel and my parked Hummer, I had to hop my way across thousands of small rocks scattered around the base as step- ping stones. I dashed under a concrete arc designed to block mortar attacks aimed at the chapel—my home, my office, and my sanctuary—before reaching my Hummer. I prayed a silent thank-you when I saw Specialist Andrew Seng, my assistant and bodyguard, standing by it with his 9-millimeter in a holster and his M16 draped over his shoulder. The aid station was on the other side of the camp in an aircraft hangar set up with tents for triage, sick call, and surgeries. It wasn't far away and we felt our camp was secure. But we had just convoyed up from a base that was mortared the day I arrived, so I took nothing for granted and it was a relief to have Seng by my side. I was in a unique position here. Even though my rank was Army captain, a pocketknife was the most lethal object I was allowed to hold. Chaplains are never allowed to carry weapons, and that's a good thing. I wasn't in Iraq to fight. But I still felt awfully vulnerable.

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More About Roger Benimoff & Eve Conant

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! ROGER BENIMOFF was a chaplain in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2008. He spent two tours of duty in Iraq and was a chaplain in residence at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is currently a chaplain at Methodist Hospitals of Dallas. He lives in Texas with his wife and two children.
EVE CONANT is a staff writer for Newsweek, covering the evangelical movement, politics, social issues, and health.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Tested under Fire  May 31, 2010
I bought this book originally because I was interested in becoming a Chaplain Candidate to see what a full time Chaplain's job was really like while being deployed. The book met all my wildest expectations, and I must say as a Christ follower and in the National Guard this book hit home. I knew what Chaplains do, and what their duties entail. Especially with Chaplain Benimoff. He juggled trying to counsel and console soldiers while also trying to spread the Good News. A Chaplain's duties are not easy and are perhaps the hardest the Army has. War is hell, and seeing our soldiers in the middle of it and what they go through and then ministering to them and their needs takes a true servant's heart and that's what Chaplains are called for. Chaplain Benimoff's experiences were especially dye-ring as he served some of the worst regions in Iraq in some of it's most turbulent times back in 2005... then being assigned to Walter Reed and seeing all of the veterans come home with a lot of PTSD and trying to create a life for themselves again, and cooping with survivor's guilt. I must say I wept though a lot of the book... especially when he went to Brady's grave, and dealing with the guilt of thinking he had done enough or not. His personal life sped out of control, having a difficult adjustment to his wife and kids with reintegration. I must say this book is for anyone who has been tested by God and to their limits. Chaplain Benimoff is the modern day Job. Chaplain Benimoff questions his faith and is presented with a serious of questions (i.e. why is there evil in the world, why is there war, etc, etc?) and other testing questions that theologians have wrestled with for years. Being a Chaplain takes a servant's heart and I will say it also took a toll on his soul seeing the dead, the disabled and those mentally injured from war. I think this book wants me to be a Chaplain even more seeing what a need they are, and that it is truly a calling from God and that it takes a servant's heart, and Christ's love to truly do the job.
Insightful! Wish everyone would read this book!  Dec 28, 2009
All deployments are unique as are the individuals going through the deployment...both those serving abroad as well as their families left behind. I am a wife of a US Army Chaplain and my husband is currently serving on his 3rd deployment.

I first became aware of Faith Under Fire when I read Rebekah Benimoff's Redbook article which was e-mailed to myself and other chaplain's wives before our husbands deployed. That article helped me to realize the need to not only pray for physical safety for our military, but also their mental stability and health for the things they might possibly face and experience which could potentially result in PTSD.

I recently bought Faith Under Fire to read the rest of the story. Now I wish I could convince everyone to read this book, both military and non-military. Why?

As a military wife I appreciate the book because I gained insight into a high-speed, intense deployment which in turn helped me to better understand what my husband and others might possibly be facing. It is helping me to prepare for his return, and if he returns changed, I now have a framework to understand why and a framework for the healing process.

As an advocate for military family support, I wish everyone would be challenged to read this book. It is an easy read, and it gives such a good perspective on the challenges of deployment and the challenges of the military family. Our society has to be prepared for the after affects of all the deployments our military are facing. Are our churches and communities going to be there for us? Reading this book would certainly be a good start to understanding the military community and a stepping point for great opportunities to support the military community.

"Faith is something that by its very nature will be tested..." This is one of the many quotes I underlined as I read the book. My greatest appreciation for the book is following Roger's faith journey as he struggled with PTSD. I am so grateful that he and Rebekah had the courage to share their story so that others who read this book and are struggling can find hope in the journey.

Benita Koeman
Founder, Operation We Are Here
A quick, easy read on a difficult subject...  Sep 28, 2009
This is a very easy (yet difficult at the same time) book to read. I am not one to spend a lot of time reading hundreds of books, but this one was recommended by another book I am currently reading (Faith Deployed). As the spouse of a soldier, I found this book to be enlightening on what actually happens over seas and what might happen once the soldier returns. This book brings questions to mind that you will ponder for days after finishing the book.
Honest and Truthful - a book for anyone who struggles with the hard things in life  Sep 18, 2009
This book touched me deeply as it is honest and compelling as it tells of Chaplain Benimoff's struggles with his service in the war in Iraq and with his faith after that service. Although much of what is written would be applicable to those who have experienced war first-hand, it also reaches out to those who suffer from other forms of trauma: divorce, death of loved ones, traumatic illness, etc. How do we reconcile these events with a loving God? So many times these events lead us to question and doubt our faith. And yet it is important to be able to do that honestly and truthfully, as Chaplain Benimoff did. But in the end, the most powerful message in his book (for me) is summed up in his own words: "Any truly difficult time is a war zone--a divorce, the loss of a child, an illness. The emotional violence is the same. In Iraq I once quoted from Hebrews in my journal, "What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen." But maybe that's not quite it. Maybe it's the confident assurance that, even if you don't always get what you're hoping for, you won't be alone." How true this statement is and how life changing. Thank you Chaplain Benimoff. And thank you for writing this book.
A Courageous Survival  Sep 15, 2009
I wanted to read this book to understand more about day to day life of our soliders in Iraq and I especially wanted to understand how a Chaplain might interact with the soliders while on the battlefield. I felt I knew more than I truthfully wanted to know after I had finished this book. I felt "the realism" of the suffering and emotional distress our soliders endure. The Chaplain in this story gave away all of himself on the battlefield, and recovery for him afterwards was sad and it was not a story "wrapped up with a pretty bow". It is mostly a story of survival,physically and spiritually.

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