Posted by: smstrouse | November 12, 2011

A Peacenik’s Perspective on Veterans Day

At the Interfaith Center at the Presidio we talk a lot about our role in providing resources for veterans. After all, the Presidio Chapel was built to serve the army base formerly located in the Presidio. And ostensibly military chapels have always been available for use by people of all religious backgrounds. So it makes sense for us to talk about how to continue this tradition.

But, being a peacenik from way back, I struggle with the relationship between peacemaking and the military.  Of course I want to ‘support the troops,’ but that doesn’t mean that I condone war as the answer to the problems of the world. I cannot blindly accept the decisions of our leaders – ‘my country, right or wrong’.

I do honor those who have served and those who have died.  I am proud of my dad who was a WW II vet. In the 60s we had our disagreements about protesting the war in Viet Nam. Now, all these years later, I recognize that there are many, many issues involved in national policy and military culture and support for veterans.

Even so, I’m still a peacenik. However, I believe that caring for our returning veterans is a part of the peacemaking we are called to do. Many veterans are coming home with serious wounds. The physical one are obvious. The emotional ones often are as well.
But there are also spiritual wounds:

  • the soldier who has seen things that do not fit into her understanding of God
  • the Marine who has done things that go against everything he was taught by his religious tradition
  • the double amputee who wonders how this fits into ‘God’s marvelous plan for your life’
  • the family who can’t understand why their son won’t go to church anymore
  • the female soldier who was raped by one of her own comrades
  • the homeless vet who rages against God
  • the vet who was advised by a military chaplain to ‘accept God’s will’
These invisible wounds need to be addressed. We’re going to be faced with caring for the needs of our veterans for many years to come. And support for the good health of vets is necessary, not only for each individual vet, but for their families, and for our communities. There is a need for spiritual healing that will benefit us all.
So I don’t have to support war. I don’t have to like military culture. But I can respect and honor our veterans. I can be a peacemaker who works for peace and healing and wholeness for those who are wounded.
And I believe that this is what the Interfaith Center – at the intersection of military history and  religious peacemaking – is called to do.
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