TEMPLE, Texas — Sgt. Robert Henzerling served 20-years in the military, four in the United States Marine Corps and over 16 years in the Army.
Following three combat tours in Iraq, one peacekeeping tour in Kosovo and one year in Korea, Henzerling walked away but came home a different man than the one that left.
"Death, loss, innocent people being treated wrong," Henzerling recalled when asked what he had seen during his 20-plus years in service to our country. "You know, I wouldn't want my kids to go through what I went through or any of the veterans went through."
Henzerling's personal struggles and how he overcame them, through his faith, has led him to start a new non-profit organization called Operation Dry Bones, a God-Centered, Military Ministry, which will serve service members, veterans, and their families.
"When I got out of the military, I wasn't like this," Sgt. Henzerling admitted. "Actually, a fact, you'd probably have to beep out a bunch of curse words, I did a lot of dipping and drinking."
While Henzerling said his non-profit ministry will be God-centered, he said it comes with a deeper direction and one with a well-known recovery process called "Post-traumatic Growth (PTG). He said the process was invented by Robert F. Dees, a mentor to him:
- Dealing: Insight that the trauma is underlying the service members (SM) problems. The SM needs to get past the suppression of and around the walls they’ve built around the traumatic event, in order to face it head on. That way the SM can use the event in the further steps.
- Feeling: Once the SM has faced the traumatic event head on, the SM then needs to talk about their feelings that was incorporated in the event. How did the SM feel at each transpiration of the event? Now that the SM found the emotions, How can the SM cope with each of the emotions?
- Healing: Help the SM find the meaning or positive outcome of the traumatic event. Does this event provide opportunities?
- Sealing: Therapists will tell individuals to file away the event into the brain like a filing cabinet, and not ponder on it anymore. Although, I believe all this does is sweep it under the carpet, for it to resurface.
Henzerling hopes he can help breathe life back into those who feel like they just can't do it anymore because of what they've seen and felt during an intense time the last two decades.
"In order to recuperate from where they've been and to bounce back better and stronger you've got to have somebody who has been there and done that and can help you through the process," he said.
Henzerling, who reads the Bible regularly, said while his vision for Operation Dry Bones was born from the Gospel, it's also because he feels an immense responsibility to never leave a comrade behind.
"To be able to have a fellowship and camaraderie of people that will have your back and can talk to you about it because I can't tell my wife things that I can tell a veteran," Henzerling explained. "She just wouldn't understand, she wouldn't understand the things that we had to do to protect ourselves and to protect the innocent."
Operation Dry Bones is launching Sunday, October 14, 2021 at the Temple Christian Center on West Adams Avenue. It begins at 10:30 a.m. and all veterans are invited to attend.