University of Lynchburg marked Veterans Day with a service in Snidow Chapel and a luncheon for alumni veterans. Dr. Eileen Jenkins ’96, a major in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, spoke in the chapel service to share her personal journey of overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder with faith.
Dr. Jenkins majored in biology and participated in the Westover Honors Program at LC before receiving her commission from the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School in 1997. She has served in Afghanistan, Korea, Kosovo, as well as in domestic military bases.
In her sermon in the Veterans Day service, Dr. Jenkins explained that in 2009, she attended a chapel service on a base in Afghanistan, where she was stationed, and a chaplain asked the congregation members, “What if your life was demanded of you today?”
“That sermon shook me to my core,” she recalled. “I was living in one of the most dangerous places in the world, as was my husband, and I was being asked to seriously contemplate my mortality. What was my purpose in life? Had I lived my life in such a way to glorify God? Was I ready to leave this earth?”
Only 16 days later, Dr. Jenkins was injured in a rocket attack. At first, her reaction was characterized by gratitude for her survival. But then a foreboding feeling took hold. “I started blaming God. I was angry, I was scared, and I felt isolated from the people around me. My physical wounds healed, but my mind and my spirit were broken.”
After being diagnosed with PTSD, Dr. Jenkins was able to get help and recover significantly. But she had turned away from God. About two years later, she accepted a friend’s invitation to church, which helped her engage with her faith again.
She encouraged her audience of veterans and LC community members to respond to their challenges, including difficult moments related to armed service, with faith. “I am here to tell you today that no matter how serious your crisis or how severe your wound, no matter how many times humans have failed you, no matter how unworthy you feel, God is here for you,” she said. “He will lead you. He will fulfill your needs. He will you bring you through that darkest time.”
The chapel service also included patriotic hymns and a performance by F. Johnson Scott, College organist, and Mychael Ward ’18, on the trumpet.
LC President Dr. Kenneth R. Garren, a veteran of the famed 29th Infantry Division of the Army National Guard, described his goal of learning more about the LC faculty and staff who have served in the military. He has asked all campus community members to email him to notify him of their histories of military service. He also mentioned that the Office of Veterans Affairs in the registrar’s office has been collecting information for a display which was presented in the Bower Veterans Lounge on Veterans Day.