Chaplain Dave Smith reflects on an equine therapy event in Colorado Springs he participated in last week with military and hospital chaplains called “Resiliency Care Support for Post Traumatic Stress and Cumulative Stress.”
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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.
Join Big Bend Hospice and the JustPeace Soul Care Initiative for the Clergy & Congregational Leaders Retreat on April 19, from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, 3720 Capital Circle SE, Tallahassee, FL 32311.
The theme is, Caring for Our Veterans and their Families. A free, light breakfast and lunch is included. Upon returning home from war, many veterans are wounded in mind and spirit. The faith community is uniquely positioned to help.
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.
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.
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.
When the entire community experiences loss, the work of congregational leaders is to create such containers for the entire community of faith and then to hold the container and be present; not with rituals, requirements, or expectations, but with love, grace, hope and patience.
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.