We all have a story that defines us. A story that tells about who we are, our life’s experiences and the role that faith plays.
When we share our story and recount the details of a difficult time our experiences can bring pain and anguish that can only be expressed [of what took place] when we the [individual] are ready to share. When a soldier returns from combat they are challenged to return to a life of “normalcy” and are expected to clear their minds and hearts of their experiences.
How and when a soldier shares their experiences may and can happen suddenly or it can take months or even years. The Catholic Church for the last several years has been making strides in working with veterans, service men and women, in healing through several established therapy groups that spiritually heal wounds scarred by war.
Welcome Home provides spiritual direction to let veterans know that there is an underlying presence of God, the Holy Spirit or, for some, their higher power. Welcome Home spiritual director Shelia Laughaton says “In spiritual direction there is an underlying belief that ‘between God and me, we can work things out.” Ms. Laughton has ministered to veterans from many eras, including World War II, Vietnam and Iraq. She says that it’s more about healing and growth, rather than fixing a problem. She also says, “Many soldiers have to work through all the death they have seen, or caused, in combat. You are not fighting so much for a great cause as you are fighting for the people around you. Then you think ‘thou should not murder’. What’s important is that if someone is firing at you, it’s not wrong to fire back. There are moral injuries.” Through spiritual direction Ms. Laughton says hearts can be healed and softened and the veteran feels the love that God has for them.
The Return and Recovery program helps veterans overcome the memories or experience [internally] of war. The program, created by Tim Mayer of Artists for the Humanities, encourages veterans to draw pictures that are shared with family member and or groups. The drawings can serve as a way of healing traumatic memories with the recovery leading to connecting or reconnecting with God.
We Honor Veterans seeks to honor veterans for serving our country and allows them to talk about their experiences. The program also focuses on improving their care by “ensuring that veterans receive the services they are eligible for and in teaching respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment to dying veterans.” Ruth Southards, a registered nurse with We Honor Veterans says that they offer a Life Review program in which a veteran’s story is videotaped and recorded on DVD.” By recording their stories veterans are given the opportunity to release stress and to talk with their family about a part of their service experience.
Additional information about the healing care programs for veterans available through the Catholic Church is available at Welcome Home: http://www.loyolaspiritualitycenter.org/welcomehome.html and Artists for the Humanities Return and Recovery Program: http://a4th.org/ and We Honor Veterans: www.wehonorveterans.org.