Short stories, Travel and Health Information
There have been many books written by those who have walked the Camino de Santiago – but in A Soldier to Santiago, author Brad Generaux has given us a different perspective to this pilgrimage.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Brad Genereaux served for over 22 years in the US Navy. When he retired, he realised what many military personnel do when they leave the forces – he was lost.
Those who serve in the armed services of any country are people with a respected identity having a role that their societies recognise and value. They themselves belong to a supportive community. When they leave the service they often find themselves unsupported – devoid of purpose, self respect and like-minded colleagues- and having to struggle alone with the demons from their past.
Serving in uniform, soldiers give their all for their country – their aim being to win the respect of their commanders, peers and families, and to become part of a special group that is held in high regard by society. Yet once their service is over many find themselves inadequately supported and unable to settle into into civilian life. Their brains, bodies and emotions have been shaped for their role as soldiers by their military service. Reprogramming the cognitive and emotional functions of their brains when they leave the military is not at all easy.
Many succumb to depression, alcohol and drugs, being unable to cope with this loss of respect and purpose..
Having myself served as a doctor in the military for many years and seen this situation for myself in so many veterans, Brad’s story of his pilgrimage to Santiago deeply touched me on many levels.
A Soldier to Santiago is the honest story of a stiff, formal, no nonsense “Senior Chief” of the Navy – someone who’d seen his share of military conflict and had spent years building walls inside himself to compartmentalise the violence and tragedies that had been part of military life. Once he left the service he found himself descending into a dark depressive hole – a place where far too many of our soldiers end up when they give up their uniforms. He had lost his identity, his own self worth and his sense of mission. In his own words, he discovered “I fit in….nowhere”.
It was then that he discovered the Camino de Santiago, that ancient pilgrim trail in Spain.
Brad’s pilgrimage along The Camino helped him change from being a totally military-minded, mission oriented person trying to fight his demons and forget the images of war that kept haunting him – into a much calmer human being. Step by step as he walked along this five hundred mile pilgrim trail, the walls of his negativity and his lack of faith in humanity began to crumble away and he discovered what many of us have done on this pilgrimage – it is impossible to walk this journey without journeying into yourself.
Having come through an internal storm Brad found himself at peace; he could forgive others and also himself. He began to make a purposeful effort to see the good and positive in the world rather than the dark cloud of negativity he’d been focusing on for so long.
A Soldier to Santiago is one man’s story of how he found peace along the pilgrimage to Santiago. I can confidently recommend this book and hope that reading it will encourage others, especially Veterans and those who “Once were Warriors”, to consider undertaking a journey along the Camino.
As both Brad and I did, they will discover the Camino to be Life-changing.