The Welcome Home Initiative
Helping heal the haunting memories of war zone veterans.
by Rev. Nigel Mumford
I wonder if that Easter resurrection witness is the first biblical reference to post traumatic stress disorder – the onset of the “thousand-yard stare.” Crack troops sent to guard the body of Jesus experienced something that was totally out of their realm.
We know that our crack troops today are experiencing the physical and emotional wounds of war. What can be done to help returning combat veterans? (I understand that the U.S. Fire Department is doing a better job than the church to help these broken souls.) How can we help as individuals or as a church? Be creative, such as by reaching out to say “thank you”; activate your prayer team; put on a recognition dinner; offer a day of healing of memories; adopt a military family. Reach forth your hand to help; the list is never-ending.
Two years ago my bishops and I were having lunch. We discussed how combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq will need spiritual help and healing if they are to be reintegrated into “normal” life. History has shown that after Vietnam very little was done to help the emotional breakage of minds and souls after the extreme horrors of war. The DSM4 gave a new name to a very old condition: post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is nothing new. Even the ancient Greeks noticed a psychological change in their soldiers coming back from carnage. This syndrome has had many names over the years: shell shock, compassion fatigue, battle fatigue, war neurosis, the thousand-yard stare, and post-Vietnam syndrome. In the American Civil War, it was called nostalgia!
I spent a year of my life in combat and have seen first hand the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man. In my own personal healing journey I wrote a quote that summarizes the issues of this particular need for the healing of memories:
The mind is witness to a catastrophic event. The intellect simply cannot cope with what it has seen. The body reacts physically under duress. The heart receives emotional scars; the soul weeps…. This mental trauma is a total body reaction to witnessing violent actions in combat. The desperate primordial need to save one’s own life and the lives of others. (NM 1975)
The basic problem is that, without healing, the war continues on in one’s mind, even after many years. An exaggerated startle response and many other symptoms of this experience plague many compassionate souls who have seen lives cut short before their very eyes.
After much prayer, we designed a three-day retreat. People started coming out of the woodwork to help: a bishop (a retired colonel who served in the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Air Force). Both of them were former combat veterans. And many others showed up who wanted to help. So far, we now have run three programs and have three more set for March, August, and October 2009. (Please go to http://www.ByHisWoundsMinistry.org for the dates). The retreat participants and their families have come from the following theaters of war: World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. The program is free for all combat veterans due to the astonishing generosity of individuals who want to help.
I was honored to present the “Welcome Home Initiative” (WHI) to the chief of the Army chaplains, Maj. General Douglas Carver, and seventeen Army chaplains at the Pentagon last December. I had an hour and a half to present the program and answer questions. They showed a lot of interest, and I had the chance to pray for these chaplains and to anoint their hands. We would so like to get the School of Healing Prayer® into the Pentagon.
If you know a combat veteran, please invite him or her to the WHI program. You can find a downloadable brochure on our web site at http://www.ByHisWoundsMinistry.org Once there, the food, room and board are free.
Please contact us if your spirit is quickened and you want to do something to help. Thank you for your prayer coverage for this national need for healing of memories.
God bless you, much love in Jesus,
Fr. Nigel Mumford +