Honoring Relationships with veterans

Several weeks ago, David Anderson Hooker began our conversation on the JustPeace Way by addressing the first core principle, engaging conflict. David provided us with a foundation when he stated,

“In order to engage conflict we must first acknowledge that: People are not the problem; the problem is the problem.”

David then builds on this foundation by sharing the second core principle in that “to best engage conflict the JustPeace Way encourages Welcoming Conversations.”

Welcoming conversations “requires an attitude” of being in “open and honest dialogue with those who represent different, and from our perspective, problematic viewpoints”, and “conversations we create should have a welcoming quality.”

Last week, David delved into the third core principle: honoring relationships. He states that honoring is about “preserving relationships,” and honoring “invites authentic self expression and attends to the dignity of all participants.”


As we reflect on the core principle of honoring relationships, we readily discover that David’s conversation through the lens of soul care has deep implications for the church as we honor the relationships with veterans in order to “invite authentic self expression and attend to the dignity of all participants.” What is honor? What does honor have to do with relationships?

A service member and veteran understands the word “honor.” The value of honor is inculcated into the Soldier, Sailor, Airmen and Marine at basic training.

From the early days of naval service, three basic principles have become the bedrock of Navy values. One of these core values is honor;

Honor: ‘I will bear true faith and allegiance…’ Accordingly, we will: Conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships with peers, superiors, and subordinates; Be honest and truthful in our dealings with each other, and with those outside the Navy; Be willing to make honest recommendations and accept those of junior personnel; Encourage new ideas and deliver bad news, even when it is unpopular; Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking responsibility for our actions and keeping our word…

Interesting isn’t it, that honor for a Sailor largely defines how one conducts oneself in a relationship? Honor in a relationship is about honesty, truthfulness, integrity, and responsibility.

The Army places a value on honor as well. Honor is listed as one of the core values;

Live up to the Army values. The nation’s highest military award is the Medal of Honor. This award goes to Soldiers who make honor a matter of daily living – Soldiers who develop the habit of being honorable, and solidify that habit with every value choice they make. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity, and personal courage in everything you do.

Again, honor characterizes a Soldier to have respect, loyalty, integrity, and personal courage in all aspects of  life, to include relationships.

The value of honor is the last thing a service member experiences even after death. The rendering of Military Funeral Honors is a way to show the nation’s deep gratitude to those who have faithfully defended our country. This ceremonial paying of respect is the final demonstration a grateful nation can provide to the veteran’s family. Honoring those who have served is the nation’s commitment to recognize the sacrifice and contributions of our nation’s veterans. It is about a relationship between warrior, veteran and country that honors commitment, selfless service and sacrifice.

So, our veterans understand the word “honor.” They live the value with integrity and often with courage through conversation, relationships, and service. Should we in the faith community live with the same value in our conversations, relationships, and service to others? How can we honor our conversations and relationships with our veterans and their families?


Recently, following a Soul Care Workshop in the North Carolina Conference, Mark Merryman, a combat veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg, reflected on the Soul Care Initiative’s mission to enable faith-based organizations to receive returning veterans and re-integrate them and their families into the community. The specific focus that Mark believes challenges the church is how to honor relationships with veterans. Listen to Mark’s reflections;

Mark shares simply and powerfully from his heart and from his experience the importance of how the church can honor relationships with veterans. As Mark states;

  • meet them where they are, not where you are
  • be patient and understanding
  • listen to their story without judgement

Possibly church, if we understand the word “honor” like our veterans do, we too would live with integrity and with courage through our conversation, relationships, and service to others. Quite possibly church, we then can readily engage a veteran in honoring relationship by inviting authentic self expression and attending to their dignity as human beings and as children of God. How can the church honor relationships with a veteran?

The church has a unique capacity for care, hospitality. Veterans have experienced a strong sense of community in the military, a band of brothers and sisters. Relationships to veterans and their families are quintessential. When warriors demobilize and return to their civilian communities, they often miss the close bond of the military family. The church can become a resource so that the veteran and family feel a part of a social network, a family.

Critical to hospitality is honoring relationships. By honoring a relationship with a veteran we then can begin to understand our connectedness as God’s children and we can transcend our biases and pre-conceived notions about the person. We then can relate to the person, not the war. By honoring relationship with a veteran, we can become a catalyst for the veteran to find meaning. If we do this, we become people of grace.

If you desire to be engaged in a conversation on how the faith community can be part of honoring relationships with our veterans and their families, please see the Soul Care Conversation on the website at www.soulcareinitiative.org, click on blog.

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