July 31, 2009 — In a time of increased violence in combat zones, it is as important as ever for the spiritual community to rally around service members and their families, said those leading the “Before and After the Reunion: Pastoral Care to Troops and Their Families” resource group on Friday, July 31. The resource group was hosted to aid congregations that want to bridge the gap between military personnel and civilians.
Starting with a moment of silence for our military and prayer for peace, the meeting offered tips and ideas from active duty military members. The primary message was that reintegration is a process, not an event. The military plays a very important role for our country but too often its members feel invisible or misunderstood by fellow Americans
“Combat veterans are given three days to get reacquainted to life stateside after deployments that can last as long as 13 months,” Daniel Krumrei, Command Staff Chaplain for the Illinois National Guard said. “There’s no one thing we can do to ‘fix’ anyone.” Krumrei is also Senior Pastor of Parkway Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Springfield, Ill.
Community support and ‘making sense of everything’ are two of the keys to reintegration, the presenters noted. This is why the church can be such an integral part of the healing process. A person’s faith can help put things into perspective and sometimes, a listening ear is the best gift a clergy or church member can give.
Information mentioned at the resource group noted that the families of deployed service members experience trauma too, just in different ways than the service men or women. Spouses often feel a sense of abandonment and frustration even though they know that their spouse is away for duty and not by choice. Young children often can’t understand why their parent will be away for extended periods and older children can become angry or begin to act out. But as happy as all family members are when a soldier returns home to reunite with family, this also can still be a challenging time.
Many of the skills that are vital for the deployed troops’ survival also make adaptation back home difficult. One example is that of rules and order which is a way of life during deployments. While away, military members are expected to be disciplined and follow orders exactly. Imagine what kind of issues that may cause when reuniting with a toddler child if expectations aren’t changed.
There’s no formula to create a successful military ministry, but one of the most important things a church can do is compile a ‘survival guide’ which could includes information for banking, car repair shops, home improvements and child care/parent’s night out events, said Michael Grubbs, a Command Staff Chaplain for the Air Force.
“In most families different people manage different roles,” Grubbs said. “Once someone is deployed, there can be quite a learning curve.”
The event was helpful to those in attendance which included six combat veterans.
John Ledford of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Livingston, Tenn. is an active duty member of the Air Force. He felt the event was very helpful but wished more people from Assembly had attended.
I’m in charge of safety in my squadron and I’m doing a presentation on helping families before, during and after deployments,” Ledford said. “Everything I learned here will be helpful.”
Jim Higginbotham, associate professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Earlham School of Religion, Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, volunteered as a presenter from Disciples Peace Fellowship.
“Caring for veterans is as important as seeking peace and isn’t contrary to peace making,” Higginbotham said.
By: Leslie McCotry