How then do we transform community? We put our neighbor’s interest before our own. We even go as far as laying down our life for our neighbor (John 15:13). This is a radical relationship! Veterans understand connectedness through radical relationships where each day, whether on the battlefield or at home station, they put others first by living out the ethos of duty, honor, respect, and selfless service; not only for country, but for the oppressed, and for their battle buddy.
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Those that are committed to a mission and ministry to veterans should prayerfully contemplate the experiences of the veteran returning from war. The stakes are high and the costs of war are very personal. Therefore, attentive and non-judgmental listening will help the warrior in his or her spiritual struggle. For a veteran, telling even a small snippet of one’s story and feeling heard and accepted may be the first important step toward healing.
In her article God’s love heals the soul in the November-December 2015 edition of Interpreter Magazine, Emily Snell features Chaplain Dave Smith and his work leading the JustPeace Soul Care Initiative.
What can the faith community do to understand these challenges and journey with our veterans toward healing? The veteran’s story is sacred as is the faith community’s story. By understanding the veteran’s story in the context of the spiritual meaning within a particular faith community context, we then can relate to the person, not the war. This is the most important step toward developing a relationship of trust with the veteran and their family. The faith community can role model this technique for engaging conflict.
The church is uniquely positioned to give attention to the spiritual health of our veterans – an underserved component of veteran’s well-being. Churches have distinctive strengths and capacities for care. The church is the sacred community called forth for life and healing.
Members of the church can be a great resource. Walking with veterans and their families on healing journeys is means of justice, and what faith communities are about in ministry. As the church lives the liturgy throughout the church year they experience anew the powerful reassurance of God’s grace and presence in the lives of that faith community. As the church lives out these words, they learn to trust others, to bind the wounds.
The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury (DCOE) recently interviewed Chaplain Dave Smith, the Coordinator of the JustPeace Soul Care Initiative about the impact of war on psychological health.
The “soul art” encounter began as Donna shared with the group her soul wound, making herself vulnerable to the veterans attending. This “confession” had the affect of tearing down walls between her and the group that opened the doors of trust. Donna shared with the group the significance of the art in her life as it has brought her healing. She opened her soul to us by sharing a story around each piece of art.
I am excited to announce JustPeace’s launch of the Soul Care Initiative website.
I have engaged faith communities and faith partners over the last 6 months regarding their concern for our veterans and their families, especially about maintaining health and wholeness. During these conversations we recognized the need for a means to communicate, collaborate, and facilitate resources and practices that are a part of the cultivation of spiritual care and the development of resiliency for our veterans and their families.
Within the last decade, there have been several experts who have addressed the realities of moral injury; Jonathan Shay, Brett Litz, Rita Nakashima Brock, and Gabriella Lettini. The concept is currently used in literature on the mental health of military veterans who have witnessed or perpetrated a moral transgression in combat. Each of these scholars and behavior health professionals have researched the effects of moral injury from a psychological, cultural, and spiritual perspective.