The first church I pastored was in Laurel, Montana. It’s a small town of 7,000 people whose highlight of the year was the 4th of July fireworks display. The Volunteer Fire Department raised money throughout the year for this Shock and Awe fireworks show where sometimes 50,000 people came to watch.
When I came to the VA as a chaplain in 2018, I discovered that the holidays we celebrate to honor the sacrifice and service of our veterans were not celebrated but avoided by many vets.
The fireworks triggered memories of sounds of war. Memorial Day or Veterans Day, when a nation thanks veterans for their service, reminds them of the deeds they have done or witnessed and strive to forget.
Listening to the stories of veterans in the hospital or in consultation, I discovered that we send our young people, generally aged 17 to 18, to fight for our freedom, only to return home to an internal war for personal reasons. freedom.
I visited a Vietnam veteran in the hospital who had just received news from the doctor that his condition was terminal, they could not heal his body. I asked him how he was reacting to the news, he said, “Chaplain, maybe now I will find peace!
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Many veterans tell me that they wish their internal injuries were physical, so people would understand their pain. When they seek treatment for PTSD, it is a wound from exposure to a world that sees the worst in humanity, now their world seems dangerous.
A moral wound is a wounded conscience that did things during the war that it thought it could or would never do. They are dangerous, evil, unlovable, unforgivable.
A veteran illustrated this injury in his battle story. He was part of a team that interviewed high-level Iraqi insurgents. His team would investigate these targets, their families and contacts, and then they would move as a team to shed light on them. Instead of killing randomly in battle, they knew their targets intimately. “In Iraq, I felt surrounded by evil.”
His team then returned home to train for another war in Afghanistan where the enemy targets were more sinister. These targets were planning or had planned attacks on American soil, or ruthless attacks on international forces fighting in their country. In this country the rules of interrogation were different, whatever the cost, officially we followed the rules of a civil fight. “In Iraq, I felt surrounded by evil, but in Afghanistan, I felt bad.” Iraq was his PTSD injury; Afghanistan was his moral wound.
We send our young men and women into battle to kill the enemy (a hurtful experience for anyone) to protect our freedom. What is this freedom they are fighting for that makes war just?
A young vet I visited in hospital was surrounded by his family. He recounted his frustration on returning from the fight where he was injured, but saw his friends next to him having their limbs ripped off or falling dead before he hit the ground.
He came home and stood in line at a cafe where the person in front of him was yelling at the barista for putting whole milk in his latte instead of soy. “I wanted to grab his cup and pour it over his head, order my filter coffee and go hide in the mountains. Is this what we risk protecting our lives? »
How do we honor the sacrifice and service of our veterans? Exodus tells the story of God bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt, but it took 40 years of wandering in the wilderness to bring Israel out of slavery. Freedom is an act of internal war. The Apostle Paul calls us to this battle to pursue freedom in Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free. So stand firm (military term meaning, hold on!) and no longer be subject to the yoke of slavery. Freedom is therefore not only something our soldiers are fighting for, it is also a battle fought by every citizen.
When our young people take up arms and walk into a school, church or mall to slaughter others, we are losing the war for freedom. When we see others from another political party as enemies of freedom, we have lost the value of unity in diversity.
When we oversimplify moral issues like abortion or health and science around COVID or educational approaches or immigration, social justice in non-civil wars, we have lost the reason we are sending our young people at war.
What is the attitude of a person who fights for freedom at home? It is the speech of the apostle Paul “I had a dream”.
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do what you want to do and destroy your freedom. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love; this is how freedom grows.
For all that we know of the Word of God can be summed up in one sentence: “Love others as you love yourself.” It is an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, be careful, in no time you will annihilate each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? Galatians 5:13-15 (The Message).
Each is responsible for fighting for the freedom to serve others in love. I do this by refraining from judging others in their struggle, but rather from loving and forgiving unconditionally.
As I was researching how to cover my garage, my neighbor told me he couldn’t see me struggling with this and served me with his expertise.
Some are reaching out to flood victims in their reconstruction; others tackle the homelessness crisis in our cities. Some seek to care for war-injured veterans.
What is your role in the fight for the freedom to serve one another with love?
Tim Weidlich is a father of three adult children who is passionate about walking with veterans in their quest for healing and health. A passion fulfilled working with veterans throughout the state of Montana as well as training pastors, therapists, and nonprofits on community partnerships in veterans health. Tim loves being in nature, getting together with friends and family, traveling, exploring hard-to-explain wonders of the earth. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org