MTL Christmas - Page 40

those provided for them by the VA (Veterans’ Association). John was serving his second deployment in Afghanistan when his father died of a heart attack. It took several days for the news to reach him, and then several more until he could get home. Though everyone assured him there was nothing he could have done to help his father avoid the fatal heart attack, he couldn’t shake his feeling of guilt for not having been there to help his mother through those first difficult days. Julie had been in the Navy for less than two years when she was deployed for six months. Though she didn’t serve directly in a combat zone, the stress of being away from her two young children—even though she knew they were in the loving care of their father—led her to change her plans of pursuing a military career. Instead, she opted out of the military when her initial term of service was fulfilled. To this day, she struggles with the guilt of not being there for her children during those six months. Manny’s issues ran a lot deeper. He was a Marine serving his third deployment in the Middle East when he found himself not feeling well during his shift on guard duty. When his sergeant noticed how pale he looked, he sent him to get checked out by a medic. In the meantime, another Marine came to take Manny’s place. Just minutes after Manny left his post and another stepped up to finish Manny’s guard duty, the post was hit by a car bomb. The two suicide bombers in the car were killed, but so were three Marines, including the one who had taken Manny’s place. Three years later, Manny still struggles with guilt over the incident. He has been on medication and in counseling ever since. In addition, his marriage has fallen apart and he has trouble finding and keeping a job. John, Julie and Manny all came home from deployment with varying degrees of guilt and anxiety. Whether or not their symptoms qualify as PTSD, all three need help and encouragement to readjust and resume civilian life. If you or someone you know has loved ones serving in the military and away on deployment, you might ask about their plans when they return. Will they continue serving, or are they looking to end their military service and transition back to civilian life? Rather than waiting until they’re back to start looking for resources that might fit their particular needs, why not search online and within your community to pull those resources together before they return? We all love those heart-tugging pictures or videos of soldiers coming home to their families, don’t we? The soldier steps out of a plane and crosses the tarmac into his or her loved one’s arms; the sailor stands on deck as the ship steams into port, scanning the crowd until he sees his family, eagerly waiting for that special moment of reunion. Some of the vets have never really ‘come home’ But what about those who have no one waiting to welcome them home? Perhaps a loved one died or even deserted them; perhaps there never was anyone to see them off, let alone welcome them home. At a time when most in our country seek to honor our military and show appreciation for their sacrifices and commitment, how can we effectively do something to help those who have no one waiting when they return? First, speak with your pastor/clergyman and ask if he/she is aware of any such ministry or local organization that makes a point to encourage the military while they’re away and then welcome them home at the end of their deployment. If you are unable to find anything local, the USO would be a perfect place to get the information you need to get involved. Not only would you be cheering up a service man by writing to him while he’s away on deployment, but you could request that you be assigned someone who lives near enough to you that you could welcome that soldier or sailor home when the tour of duty is over. Then, of course, there are the veterans’ homes and hospitals around the country who would welcome a group or an individual to come and cheer up these men and women who gave so much to protect and defend our country and its unique freedoms. If there is a veterans’ home or hospital in your area, there will certainly be a church or organization already visiting there on a regular basis. If not, perhaps you’re the one God will use to initiate such a ministry. None of these methods of helping our active military and veterans is difficult or overly time-consuming, and they can be tailored to meet your abilities. It could be as little as a couple of hours per month, but those few hours can mean more to a hurting soldier or sailor than we could ever imagine. 40 MTL Magazine / www.mtlmagazine.com