Healing The Spiritual Wounds Of War

Washington's Faith-based Community Mobilizing on behalf of Service Members and their Families

Feb 27, 2013, 07:00 ET from Army OneSource

SPOKANE, Wash., Feb. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Only 37% of military families live on a military installation, the rest are living in over 4,000 communities nationwide.   As Service members return from war, many will reintegrate with wounds that are not just physical, but behavioral, emotional and spiritual.   As the process of healing begins, these families will first seek services and support in the communities where they reside.   With over 28,000 National Guard and Reserve and 670,000 Veterans living in Washington, the state has a significant responsibility.

Washington's faith-based community has a considerable role in responding to the spiritual wounds of war.  War zone experiences, such as committing acts that conflict with deeply held moral beliefs, can weaken religious faith, confuse core ethical beliefs, or generate feelings of shame and despair.  These moral injuries, a phrase coined in December of 2009 by Dr. Brett Litz, may manifest as substance abuse, violent behavior or suicide, social withdrawal, depression, and an inability to maintain close relationships. In turn, family members may also begin to question their faith and spiritual beliefs. 

In an article on the spiritual impacts of war and the role of the community, Deacon Roy Harrington, Colonel, USAR, Retired writes, "There are times when we have to send our Warriors into harm's way and they must use force to defend our nation and the lives of those who can't defend themselves. But there is nothing redemptive or life-giving in the experience of using force or violence, even when it's clearly justified. We who have sent them into harm's way must be ready to help them deal with all the effects that war can have on our Warriors. We have a responsibility to help them fully recover from all their injuries, especially their spiritual, moral and psychological trauma."

So how does the Faith-community get involved?  The Army is mobilizing communities through an initiative called Army OneSource.  By aligning with key organizations in the state, Army OneSource is educating the community on Soldier and Family needs and the role faith communities can play.  They also offer resources to reach out to military families, and access to established, exemplary programs for spiritual care.

In Washington, Army OneSource has aligned with the Washington National Guard, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, DSHS-ATR, Archdiocese of Seattle, Hire America's Heroes, Red Cross, and the National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide.  The alliance has put together a series of workshops to train the spiritual community on faith-incorporated suicide prevention, substance abuse, employment issues, PTSD, military sexual trauma/moral trauma, and military culture.  In these workshops, titled "Building Healing Communities for Veterans," the Army OneSource Faith Alliance has trained 160 participants, including state program leaders, ministers, community coalitions, and veterans associations. 

Members of the Washington faith community interested in developing ways to better serve Service members and their families can participate in the next workshop scheduled for March 12 – 13 in Spokane, WA.  The event will feature guest speaker, Judge Vance Peterson who is the only sitting Airborne Ranger Green Beret Judge in the Country today.  Participants will learn about the challenges faced by Veterans and their families and create specific ways to affirm and support their military population. To register for the workshop please email KJKegerreis@GSSAC.org by March 6th.

Washington communities have a great responsibility in serving the military families in their communities.   Working together in an informed and synchronized effort to address the unique challenges facing today's military will go a long way in ensuring our Service members and their families live the lives they deserve. To learn more visit www.hc4vets.org

For more information about Army OneSource and the Faith Alliance contact the Army OneSource Washington Community Support Coordinator at Angela.Traina@serco-na.com.

SOURCE Army OneSource