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TMCNet:  Video shows effects of war on Benjamin Sebena

[December 27, 2012]

Video shows effects of war on Benjamin Sebena

Dec 27, 2012 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A 10-minute video posted more than a year ago on YouTube makes it clear that Marine Benjamin Sebena, who has been arrested in the shooting death of his wife, a Wauwatosa police officer, left Iraq a profoundly affected man.

"My experiences in Iraq were that of having to watch over 50 of my friends, that are good friends, die. Having to kill people. Having to kill a child who tried to kill me," Sebena says as a camera moves toward him in the back of his church, sitting in his favorite seat, the one in front of a pillar so his back is always covered.

"I was a Marine," Sebena's voice says over the video of him sitting alone and staring downward. He has a crew cut and wears an olive green long-sleeved T-shirt.

"We're trained to kill. We're trained that death is OK. Wasn't trained how to deal with the death, but we're definitely trained to kill." His wife, Jennifer Sebena, was shot to death early Christmas Eve while on duty. Charges against Benjamin Sabena are expected to be filed later Thursday.

The video, which was made for Elmbrook Church's No Regrets Men's Conference in 2010, shows Benjamin Sebena talking about his experience as a Marine in Iraq and how the church helped him after his two tours of duty were finished. The conference's purpose was to empower men in the church.

The conference, which posted the testimony on YouTube in late October 2011, made the video private late Thursday morning. The Journal Sentinel made a transcript of the video before public viewing was disabled.

As the video continues, Benjamin Sebena looks up, and the clip flashes to combat scenes in Iraq with explosions, a machine-gunner firing from behind sandbags, helicopters lifting the wounded. Civilians crying.

A picture of the teenage Sebena appears on the screen. It is followed by family pictures and he talks about how he felt before he joined the military -- lost.

"I just wasn't feeling 100 percent loved. I wasn't feeling important," he says.

"Before I went in, I was pretty much like a hippie. I was very laid back, but the anger was there. It was just very hidden. Then when I went into the Marine Corps, they really taught me how to centralize the anger. After my training, it definitely amplified . . . .It got worse." The scene flashes back to explosions in Iraq and soldiers running down streets with guns drawn and masked Iraqis on the street holding their own machine guns, barrels pointed up.

"The first time I came back from Iraq, I was extremely angry and very lost in my ways," he says. "I was running red lights. I was taking my motorcycle 150 miles an hour down the expressway. I was scared out of my mind and I was angry all the time. It was a dark, lonely world." In September 2004, Sebena says, he returned to Iraq for his second tour. The violence at the time was so rampant that he says he and his fellow Marines were shot at every time they left their encampment.

"We were losing guys left and right . . . .I lost over 50 friends to combat injuries. Basically we had to find a release." It was the Internet.

A picture on the screen flashes to what looks like a social media site with the image of a 22-year-old woman. Her black hair is pulled back behind a big smile. The name on the screen says Jen.

"On MySpace, I found a girl that I used to go to high school on there with and she was cute so I sent a little thing like, 'Hey, I'm a Marine. I'm in Iraq. How ya doin ' And she sent back like, 'Ok, I'm good.' So that didn't work, but I'm a Marine, so I kept on trying. So every day we kept on writing each other emails back and forth, if not two or three of them a day. And then Feb. 3 of 2005 happened." That's the day during his second tour in Iraq when he says a friend asked him to step outside for a smoke. He declined, and moments later a mortar round struck and killed the friend. Sebena was also severely wounded and was eventually taken by C-130 to Germany and then to California, where his recovery continued for injuries to his leg and arm. He also continued his courtship.

"We just kept on writing back and forth every day and slowly building our relationship up," he says.

On the mend, Sebena left the military and returned to his home state.

"I came back home to Wisconsin and started spending more time with Jen and our love flourished. We became actually infatuated with each other and then one day I asked her if she would be happy to spend the rest of her life with me and she said yes." They got married and started attending Elmbrook Church and taking classes for young couples. That is where he met Rob Adams.

"Ben really shared his heart with me and I developed an appreciation for the impact that war had had on his life. For the impact that war had had on his marriage," Adams says on the video.

Pictures appear on the screen of Sebena meeting with a small crew of men from the church.

"I felt loved. I felt protected and I felt safe -- for the first time," Sebena says.

"I realized I had to rededicate my life to God." "What anyone will see when they meet Ben is he's a delightful young man. He's had some challenges in his life, many of which came from being at war. He gave me a deep appreciation for the sacrifice that he and a lot of other young men have made to defend our country," Adams says.

Another image from Iraq flashes on the screen of Sebena in combat dress, wearing a black headband and holding a machine gun. It's followed by a picture of him with pursed lips, a pistol cocked in the air.

Sebena decided to start his own group to help fellow veterans.

"What better way than to reach out to veterans that have come back from combat. A lot of them are in a deep dark world of pain, and the only people that really can relate to a combat veteran is another combat veteran," Sebena says.

"I've been there. I've done it. I've been to the same places as them. I've been into the dark places, and I want to help bring them into the light." ___ (c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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