Simple Forum 9.1 - Ministry with Veterans
The statistics in the text (from 2012) are attention-getting: 21.5 million veterans, 3.5 million with a service-related disability rating. Particularly in the North Carolina Conference, with Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, there are likely to be folks in our churches who have served in the armed forces and quite likely have lasting physical or psychological disabilities from their service.
Does your church have any clear examples of ministry to veterans, especially veterans with disabilities? Given the issues of PTSD, sexual trauma, suicide, as well as physical disability, how might your church seek to fully welcome and advocate for veterans in your community?
This simple forum allows us to share our thoughts in a single thread, hopefully learning from each other's experiences. You will receive 5 points for participating in the conversation.
We don't have any ministries specific to veterans that I've seen, disabled or otherwise. I'm sure there are some veterans who are members though and I believe that we are welcoming to veterans in general.
We did have something interesting happen a few months ago though. We sponsor a community dinner once a month and someone saw the sign and decided to join the dinner. After talking with him, we found out that his name was Eddie Gray, a Cheyenne Marine veteran, and he was in the process of walking the perimeter of the U.S. to raise awareness for veteran's issues. He said he usually visits various churches and government agencies and will give presentations there and at schools.
I suppose one first step of being more inclusive to veterans and veterans with disabilities in general is to survey the congregation and surrounding community to discover needs and to raise awareness of these needs, particularly when it comes to the more hidden issues that aren't immediately obvious.
I agree with my classmate that this is such a special group with unique disabilities that we need to learn more how to serve them.
What a great experience to hold as a community and begin some conversations!
As a small congregation we have been able to recognize our members that have served in the military. We have honored our veterans as first responders with a special Sunday service. One of our veterans has formed a support group that meets on a regular basis. It is important to remember that military individuals have a language of their own and have had experiences that most people could not understand unless they have served. N.C. probably has one of the highest number of serving veterans in the USA due to the number of military bases housed here. We are fortunate to have some excellent military facilities in our state. Our church is really not set up to address specific veteran disabilities but we do try to refer them to appropriate facilities.
Does your church have any clear examples of ministry to veterans,
especially veterans with disabilities?
Besides recognizing veterans on national holidays, and making counseling and referral available, we do not have ministries specifically addressing their needs.
Given the issues of PTSD, sexual trauma, suicide, as well as physical disability, how might your church seek to fully welcome and advocate for veterans in your community?
One way to do this would be to form a veterans association within the church, open to the broader community of veterans. I am not a veteran and, though I am aware of certain issues within this group, I lack the experience and credibility that come with military service. But I know individuals who deal with repercussions of serving, and I know some are still processing the experience. One of them, a Vietnam veteran, has been quite open. His witness to the congregation, on occasion, has been both teaching and cathartic. He might be a good leader of such a ministry.
Even as a military dependent I agree with Charles that I have not served in the armed forces and do not feel I have the understanding of that elite group. We also have a Vietnam vet who has shared very openly some of his experiences.
I have been faced with the reality recently that even though I feel a special tug to reach out to the military community to offer counseling support, since I am not a veteran, I am not well received. (And that's not a blind spot that I'm not good at it - I am literally not allowed into the community to offer in the first place! It is a tight/closed community!)
As a congregation, we do not have a specific ministry even though we are close to SJAFB. I am seeking out specific counseling training for military families.
We do have vets who have suffered profound hearing loss due to military service and there is an awareness but it is not discussed or addressed openly. I truly do feel like I am serving in Lischer's "Open Secrets" church!
In our church, we have several older men that have served in various branches of the military. My husband, the pastor is retired Navy as well. We do recognize the veterans that have served during a service each year, but we don't have any support groups or other means of recognition. One thing that we could do as a small rural church is to learn who and where resources are that provide counseling and other programs that can help meet the needs of this group of people. As a home health nurse and the wife of a disabled vet; I encourage all of the vets that I meet to enroll in the www.myhealth.va.gov website to give them better access through the VA system if they are a part of it. Another idea I share is that if they do not participate in the VA system, to consider contacting a local VA rep and see if they are eligible for services.