Serving Those Who Sacrifice

How faith communities can help military veterans adjust to life back home.

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Posted in , Feb 3, 2015

A faith community that is helping military veterans. Photo courtesy Edie Melson.

More and more communities are finding themselves with veterans, active duty military and military families in their midst. I’m not just referring to areas near a military base, but every city and town in the United States.

As more and more members of our military opt out of active service, filling the ranks of reservists and veterans, the job of reintegrating back into the communities where they live becomes more pressing. There are lots of groups who can help meet these needs, but none is better equipped than the faith community.

Members of a faith community that is helping military veterans. Photo courtesy Edie Melson.Many of our military families are already plugged into a local church, and it makes sense to begin the process of ministering to them where they’re already comfortable. As a body of believers, we can also offer hope and encouragement that many secular organizations can’t.

This past week, I was fortunate to be part of a panel who addressed the specific ways churches and lay people can address the unique needs found in this section of our population. This event was a huge success, and I’d like to share what when on so other communities can duplicate the results.

Get the Word Out
The first thing that needs to happen is advertising. Unless we can pull together the community, we’re sunk before we begin. This event was sponsored by our local Blue Star Theatre, the Warehouse Theatre.

They gave us a place to engage in real-time dialogue with churches, civic leaders, veterans and military families. They also spear-headed the networking required to advertise such an event.

Pull Together Several Experts
Organizing this event by providing a panel of people to address different needs worked very well. Represented were various ministries to serve veterans, a military chaplain, a Blue Star Mother and a Gold Star Father who is also a member of the clergy.

Enlist a Knowledgeable Moderator
Our moderator was Reverend Mark Cerniglia, a Gold Star father, and a member of the clergy. His previous experience serving the military community helped keep the discussion relevant. Reverend Cerniglia was able to keep the discussion on track and focused.

Encourage Dialogue
Each member of the panel took a few minutes to share some of their personal insights and expertise. Then, the audience was encouraged to share their thoughts on how they could contribute. This format facilitated dialogue and several partnerships were formed before the night was over.

Disseminate the Information
Because of this event, many people got a better idea of what was already available in our local community, as well as learning where there were some gaps that needed to be filled. As we move forward, we’ll be able to build on this event and better serve the military families and veterans in our midst.

 

Pictured, from left to right: Dudley Brown, Rev. Mark Cerniglia, Anne Tromsness, Edie Melson, Randy Lawson, Nick Bush, Major Regina O. Samuel

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