“God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” Luke 4:17-19 The Message ”
As a retiree from the US Navy Chaplain Corps and currently a local church pastor, I know from experience the profound resilience among the targeted population. Yet, the Department of Defense data show that 20 plus veterans daily commit suicide. As a veteran of 15 years in the military, I live with PTSD developed from assaults while serving in foreign and domestic conflicts and know the difficulty of finding responsive support. The church, with significant responsibility to its community, may address veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. However, veterans who have lost their faith as they witness collateral damage and death on the battlefields need more than twice a year support to return to their faith for healing.
Through in-person interviews and in-depth research, I will clarify how multiple deployments and frequent trauma reveal themselves as major contributors to mental instability among Veterans and LGBTQ Veterans, and the subsequent loss of faith that could have sustained them.
This project is one response to the core question, "How to motivate religious leaders to identify veterans in their congregations who struggle silently with self-destructive behavior" The wave of deaths by suicide --whether from bullying, domestic violence, alcoholism, depression, hopelessness, self-destructive behavior, and PTSD struggles --are on the rise. Local church pastors could encourage a range of non-guilt producing responses including supportive redemptive theology and practical meditation. But first, leaders must be alert to, and hear, the cries for help.
Receiving the Pastoral Study Project Grant will allow me eighteen months to (1) conduct in-depth interviews designed to survey the struggles of participating veterans and their attempts to find help, and (2) create a document for publication that will aid greater awareness of, and sensitivity to, the issues leading to suicide and eventually suggest spiritual interventions that may be of assistance.