In honor of the Memorial Day weekend, American Public Media released a broadcast in its Speaking of Faith series called The Soul of War. In the show, the host interviews Chaplain Major John Morris about his work as a military chaplain. Chaplain Morris has started a program in cooperation with the National Guard in Minnesota called Beyond The Yellow Ribbon, which is designed to help soldiers re-integrate into their families and communities after returning from combat. There’s a bill before Congress to roll out this first-of-a-kind program nationally.
The whole broadcast is available here on the Speaking of Faith website, along with a transcript, audio slideshow and other resources. There is also a helpful essay by Chaplain Morris with his recommendations for church communitites and pastors.
It’s worth listening to the whole broadcast, but here are a few sections that I found particularly interesting:
Maj. Morris: In your congregation are men and women whose sons and daughters, or grandmas and grandpas, or fathers and mothers are off risking their lives. How do you tend to them? And how do you help that soldier come home? Big, big pastoral challenge.
Maj. Morris: In Medieval days, in some parts of Europe, [the soliders] were stopped before they entered the village… Stripped off their clothes that they had fought in, bathed, heard confession again, celebrated the Eucharist, and then allowed back in the village. Now, what were they saying there? ‘You know, there needs to be some business done with God and with the community prior to allowing you to rejoin us. We need to leave the old out here.’
Maj. Morris: One of the things that I see as a challenge here is how does the community accept its moral obligation to reintegrate veterans and their families? … I am begging for the community, let’s talk quickly, because there’s no end in sight to veterans returning, and how we help them reconnect sets us up for a successful, healthy future or for lingering problems and wounds from this war.