The Army’s top clergyman claims that his mental traumas in Iraq have put him in the ‘valley of the shadows of death’ since he returned from war zones.

  • Clinton Langston felt’sick and afraid’ that he would be killed during his 2004 deployment
  • He said he was afraid of losing his family and would not care enough to help soldiers.
  • Over 10,000 soldiers were discharged in the 20th century due to mental disorders. 

According to the British Army’s most senior clergyman, mental traumas suffered in Iraq War have left the man in “the valley of shadow of death”, a state of complete desolation for many years following his return from war.

Clinton Langston (outgoing chaplain general of the Army) said he was’sickened with fear’ following the writing of letters to his family and to his wife. These were intended to be open in the case of his death in a six month deployment in 2004.

He explained that he was afraid of losing his family, which would make it impossible for him to care for the soldiers.

“I would rather risk my life by going to their bases and visiting them, and I would instead seek places of relative safety so that I can return home safe and sound.”

Clinton Langston, the most senior clergyman in the British Army has revealed that mental scars from the Iraq War left him in 'the valley of the shadow of death, a place of utter desolation' for years after returning from the war zone

Clinton Langston is the British Army’s most prominent clergyman. He revealed how his mental traumas in Iraq War have left him in “the valley of shadow of death”, a state of complete desolation for many years following his return from war.

Official figures show that more than 10,000 soldiers were discharged due to mental health issues in the 20-years preceding World War II. 

After being diagnosed with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other disorders, 500 people quit the job last year. 

In a bid to tackle the issue, the Army has launched a £220 million mental health initiative, including a 24-hour helpline for troops following a campaign by The Mail on Sunday.

Padre Langston claimed that he had made the decision to do his best for soldiers but needed to cut down on all emotional connections with family members in order to accomplish this. 

The 59 year-old said: “I can still remember being on an aircraft to get into the theatre.” [the war zone]believing that I had died already, so I could have no emotions or fear.

“I came home six months later. My inability to control my emotions has dominated both the days immediately afterward and over the years.

More than 10,000 troops have been discharged because of mental health problems over the past 20 years, according to official figures. Above: British troops in Basra, Iraq, in 2004

Official figures show that more than 10,000 soldiers were discharged in 20 years because they had mental problems. Above: British soldiers in Basra (Iraq) in 2004

‘I have remained, as have so many of our soldiers, in the valley of the shadow of death – a place of utter desolation where our shadows yearn to feel and love and live again but where our families find only the shell of who we were.’

Padre Langston also served in Bosnia and Northern Ireland tours and will soon retire. He made these candid comments during Today’s Thought For The Day segment, BBC Radio 4’s Today program. The segment was edited by General Sir Nick Carter (the former Chief of Defence Staff) and featured the thoughts and opinions of Padre Langston.

According to him, the story in the Bible of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead helped him believe it was OK to be alive again. However, the road is long.

He said, “I understand this experience of trauma is shared by many people other than the military who have suffered from emotional or physical trauma. These individuals feel condemned to live a miserable existence while they attempt to alleviate the pain of the past and future.

“But perhaps, as we enter the New Year, all of us can find ways to connect and escape from the tombs, shrouds, and chains that hold us captive, holding again the hands that desire us to live.”