Pastor feels called to help soldiers with PTSD

By Bryan Richardson

Sandra Moore has considered it her mission in life to help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

It’s an anxiety disorder experienced after emotional trauma, which can happen during war for soldiers.

“My mission is to help them understand their relationship with God after all they’ve been through,” Moore said.

The military world is one that Moore, pastor of Simpson United Methodist Church in Alta Vista, understands.

“I am an Army wife,” Moore said. “I am the mother of military. I’m the mother-in-law of military. And now the grandmother of military.”

All three of her daughters joined the Army.

“I used to think, ‘Oh, no boys. Nobody is going to follow Dad,’” Moore said.

Perhaps the girls received some of the spirit of their mother, who also entered a traditionally male-dominated field.

“Our Christian faith has been the strongest thing,” Moore said. “It’s not about being a male or female. It’s about what you’re called to do.”

Moore said she was very involved in her church growing up in Elkhart, Ind.

“At that time, my high school didn’t have school counselors because I went to a small country school,” she said. “Whenever we had problems, we signed out and went over to my minister.”

It was her minister Moore went to when she felt called by God to lead her own congregation.

“I felt called at 17,” she said. “When I went to my pastor, I got the pat on the back that said, ‘Oh, you can be a good Christian housewife, but we don’t ordain women.’”

Moore worked as a teacher and counselor for many years, but she never really let go of her dream.

“I went to seminary at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., as a grandmother,” she said. “God never lets go of you when he’s called you.”

In the immediate time after the pat on the back, Moore continued her church participation, eventually getting married and being involved in the Army chapels.

Her husband served in the Vietnam War, which gave her the first exposure to people dealing with PTSD.

Moore, who moved to Manhattan in 1976, said some of the soldiers she taught at Fort Riley’s adult high school after Vietnam suffered from the disorder.

“I saw so much of the PTSD and what happened to our soldiers when they came back,” she said. “We did not help them.”

Moore said she saw soldiers coming back from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars displaying the same symptoms.

“When I saw this happening again, it was one of my prayerful things that this time we did it better,” she said.

In 2010, she joined New Options in Junction City, a facility for soldiers with mental health problems run by the Salina Regional Health Center.

At the time, she was with Concordia First United Methodist Church.

“I saw one of my friends who said, ‘There’s a chaplain that’s being established at Salina Regional Hospital. That is you,’” Moore said. “Then a second chaplain called and said, “There’s a position being created at Salina Regional Hospital. That’s you.’”

After receiving another call about the position, she said she got the message.

Eventually, because of reorganization and family needs, Moore left and took on a church again, but her PTSD work didn’t stop.

“The next thing I knew, I had soldiers on my doorstep — some of them from previous congregations I served — and it was a word-of-mouth thing,” she said.

Moore said she helps soldiers with desensitization including a June 7 event at her church at which Christians and Muslims sought to understand each other better.

Moore said a Christian soldier she took to the event interacted with a Muslim soldier there.

“The two of them talked about their PTSD, where they had been and exchanged numbers to help each other with what they’re going through,” she said.

Moore said people who don’t have any connection can’t understand the anger these soldiers feel.

“They’ve had to hold it in all the time they’re over there,” she said. “Anger at many things: war itself, leadership, whether the family was run as it should’ve been.”

Moore said every soldier who was in a war zone told her about seeing evil when she’s asked about it.

She said soldiers’ minds don’t get rest to process feelings until they return home.

“Then we bring them home and expect them to fit right in again,” Moore said.

Moore said she’s resigning from her position at the church at the first of July, in part to do more PTSD work with soldiers.

“I love these soldiers,” she said. “I am so committed.”

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