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Finding The Power to Heal From PTSD

Cheryl Wilcox - 700 Club Producer

Fort Campbell, Kentucky 3 Months After 9/11

“The phone rang at midnight. ‘You're leaving.’ We would be the first Army unit deployed into Afghanistan. So we loaded into an aircraft, a C-17, and landed into Kandahar, Afghanistan, late at night - freezing, being cold - not knowing what to expect. We were called upon to go into the battlefield and to do something great and to defend our country.”

Army Sergeant Mike Gonzales proudly wore the uniform. Years of training had prepared him for action in the war on terror. Sacrifice came with service.  

“I don’t think that I ever felt good about being separated from my wife and kids.”

After six months in Afghanistan, Mike came home to Ines, his wife, and their children. It was the second marriage for both of them. Mike knew Army life put a lot of stress on the best of relationships, so when he was home, he made it count.   
 
“That was like starting over again, like getting to know each other all over again.
And he was a great father. That's what I admired about him the most.”

Year-long, back to back, deployments to Iraq quickly followed.

“Being outside the wire at night, nothing can describe the horror or the expectation of being possibly killed.  I would worry immensely, not only for myself but also for my troops, and-and for their families. I was always afraid to die. Death in your life --begins to take over your life.”

For his service, Mike was decorated with sixteen medals, including The Bronze Star for 100 successful missions outside the wire. But, by his third deployment mike suffered from the initial symptoms of PTSD.  

Despite all the warnings from the army, mike used drugs and alcohol to numb his anxiety and depression.
 
“I hid it well.  No one ever knew.  And it became my coping mechanism. And I think I was spiritually dead and my soul was hungering for something and the only thing that I could put into it was alcohol, alcohol to cope.”

Back home asleep at night, mike was still in Iraq.

“The nightmares were always of the enemy chasing me in different scenarios in the sandbox, in cities, in mountains hundreds of them would chase me, and I would run as fast as I could, and in my dream, it was a reality.  I began to hear things.  I began to see things.  I began to look underneath every bed in my house. I became so paranoid that it began to eat me up alive.  And my wife would tell me, ‘That is not my husband.’ I just thought that with time, perhaps things would get better.”

Mike’s PTSD and addictions eventually led to frequent, abusive arguments with Ines.  

“We argued about finances. We argued about drinking.  We argue about our kids.”

Even after Mike was diagnosed and started treatment for PTSD, he spiraled downward. He began an affair with another woman, and then he left his wife and family. Sometimes he crashed with friends, slept in his truck, or at a cheap hotel.

Ines says, “I felt really hopeless. What kind of home am I gonna have with my children with no father?”

After three years of chaos Ines sought a divorce. But, also during that time, she started going to church. She cried out to god to rescue Mike and her family.

Ines recounts, “And I – and I remember saying "Isn't that what you want?  Isn't that why you created a man and a woman to-to have a family and for you to be in the middle?"

Two days later, Ines got an urgent text from Mike that he needed to talk. Mike shared with her about an encounter he had that wasn’t a dream or a PTSD episode.

“Something was moving around and tickling my toes. I knew then that there was something there, being awakened three times, I quickly lifted the blanket and I saw right in front of me the most horrifying, demonic entity. I jumped out of the bed with my heart pounding out of my heart. I knew that it as a spiritual fight now, that with my post-traumatic stress disorder that it was no longer just mental and physical, but it was spiritual.”

Mike pleaded with Ines to come home. Ines says Mike came home a different man.  He didn’t drink, but instead, he read the Bible. He asked to go to church with Ines too. One Sunday Mike heard a sermon about the mercy and healing power of God.

“That's what I needed to know, was that there was a man out there by the name of Jesus Christ, that He was willing to give his life for mine, that that was His mission, to give me peace and joy. That’s when I lifted my hands in surrender. And, I surrendered my life to Him, and that He my Savior, my Healer, and that He would bring me back to life. Oh, a weight was lifted off my shoulder!”  

Mike’s genuine repentance and Ines’s deep forgiveness restored their marriage.

Ines says, “We're closer now and more in love now than-than we could have ever been.” Mike exclaims, “She forgave me, she stuck with me, and she never stopped praying for me. That’s real love!”

Mike explains, “Now I know who I am.  I am a child of Almighty God; I will no longer fight these issues of PTSD on my own I have the Savior of the world with me.”

In 2014, Mike Gonzales retired from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 3.  He went onto college and graduated in 2018. Today, he serves vets, and active military as the Director of Outreach for a faith-based PTSD foundation at the San Antonio college veteran’s Victory Center in Texas.  

“Today I walk around with a smile on my face, with restored – restored joy and happiness and peace that only he can do. Jesus Christ changed my life.  He can give us that unconditional love that can restore any marriage, any anxiety, and depression, and any post-traumatic stress disorder, that God's love has power behind it.”

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