By Cheryl McKay
When I see the phrase “strength to thrive in military life” as the motto of Planting Roots, my heart stirs. It is definitely not a lifestyle for the faint of heart. I don’t know that there is a braver set of people in our country than both those who serve and those willing to serve the family back home while their loved ones are gone in military service, risking their lives for our freedoms.
I had the privilege of co-writing a movie currently in theaters called Indivisible. When our director and co-writer, David G. Evans, first heard Darren and Heather Turner’s story, he knew it had to be told as a movie. Normally, I would find the subject matter difficult to write about since I didn’t have that kind of experience growing up. My father was in the Army, but he was never deployed. He finished with his service when I was a baby.
When I heard about how Darren was an Army chaplain, and how one of his main goals was to help keep marriages together, I was taken by his story. Especially to find out that once he came home after a 15-month deployment to Iraq, he almost lost his own marriage. In crafting stories, we may call that dramatic irony. But this was real, not fictional; this was the life the Turners lived. A harrowing ordeal that almost tore their family apart. This couple has been through fire, and yet they have bravely opened their hearts to share about that fire so others may benefit.
So other marriages and families may be saved.
Thankfully, after much hard work, Darren got the help and emotional support he needed. Even asking for help is a brave choice. It takes vulnerability, admitting mistakes and the inability to fix something on your own. The Turners were able, with God’s help, and the support of family, friends, and counselors, to save their marriage. Now we hope telling their story will help save others.
What is so impressive about the Turners is that Darren had a graceful out to not return to military service. And yet, both Darren and Heather decided he would return. Even after all they had been through. They knew it was a calling. A special calling from God. They couldn’t turn their backs on that.
As the female writer on this team, I was tasked with working on the female relationships of the wives back home. Both the friendships they form while their husbands are gone and with their interactions with their spouses. Diving deeply into those dynamics, and trying to feel the emotional impact of what they went through as I’d write, I have a new respect for any woman who is able to withstand those challenges.
Many of us don’t have to deal with what you do. Thematically, what shines through in this story is the need for connection and community, whether being the one at home or in service. I hope all of you seek those out in earnest so you don’t have to go through any of your battles alone.
In my eyes, the choice to join the military or to marry someone in the military are the bravest decisions anyone can make. The awesome thing is: you are not alone. You have each other and you have Christ to lean on.
Cheryl McKay has written faith-based films including The Ultimate Gift (screenplay by), Indivisible (co-writer), and Extraordinary: The David Horton Story (co-writer), as well as novels and nonfiction books, like Finally the Bride, Finally Fearless, and the 25 Dates with God series. Visit her at www.purplepenworks.com.