(This article originally appeared in the October 2014 Edition of The Link – The bi-monthly newsletter of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church)
Hundreds of our nation’s veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to our communities within the Susquehanna Conference. For many of our veterans, even after they return home, they are still at war.
George Orwell once said, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” We are indebted to our veterans and their family members.
Our veterans who return from combat do so with a wound. Some have experienced a wound not so easily seen, a wound of the soul. Our nation has a special obligation to care for those who were wounded in service to our country. Even more so, the church has a calling to offer healing to our soul wounded warriors.
War’s violence presses questions of faith into the lives of those who fight them. When a warrior steps onto the battlefield he or she immediately is confronted by the kinds of horror and hardship that has moved humanity through the centuries to reach for the spiritual. The consequence of soul wounds result in a diminishment of everything meaningful to the warrior. Countless warriors describe the dark side of their war experience with one word: hell. Soul wounds feel like hell at the very core of the warrior’s being.
The faith community is uniquely positioned to help. As the church, we offer hospitality, hope, new life, love, and compassion. With awareness, education, coaching, and support, our churches can be empowered to render an invaluable ministry to the returning veteran and their family.
Following my deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I returned significantly changed, wounded emotionally and spiritually. Because of my own experience I became interested in the impacts of war on the combat veteran. I learned that no one can return from combat unchanged, all are wounded in one way or another. From this I have a passion for our returning wounded veterans.
I began a conversation with Stephanie Hixon, Executive Director of JustPeace, on how the church can journey with our returned and returning veterans. As a result JustPeace has launched a new initiative on Soul Care and will partner with the Susquehanna Conference. It is a ministry to assist churches to help returning veterans reintegrate into the church and larger community.
What happens to our veterans after the parade, party, or welcome home celebration concludes? Are they forgotten? How can we bring peace to our veterans when they return home from war? If your congregation would like to explore ways to partner in this ministry, please contact us.
Chaplain (Colonel) David Smith, U.S. Army Retired, a member of the Conference and a 30 year Army soldier, now works for JustPeace as the Coordinator of Wounded Warrior Soul Care Initiative. Dave can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org