Caring for Those Who've Served
It wasn’t long after I first started discerning my sense of call to pastoral ministry that I realized that ministry with veterans would be a part of that. Because of family connections to the military and my own time in the service, I have felt a connection to our military personnel since my youth. In later years, I watched as our military entered Iraq the first time, followed by the numerous and repeated post-9/11 deployments. Over time, I learned something of the concerns and issues of our military families and veterans related to the physical, psychological, and spiritual wounds of war, and problems related to care after returning home. I understood the need for pastoral care and spiritual support.
The question in my mind wasn’t whether I would be doing ministry with veterans but rather to what degree? Perhaps this was so clear to me because I knew there were veterans in every church and community, and the numbers continue increasing because of all the recent conflicts. I found the common bond of military service is meaningful for many veterans, and I consider my own connection to be a gift which I should use for this specialized area of pastoral ministry.
While in seminary, I tested this sense of call in several ways: specialized coursework in military and veteran chaplaincy, a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship at a Veterans Administration Hospital, chaplain and clergy workshops on veteran’s issues, and leadership training on start up and facilitation of veteran support groups. Throughout all of these experiences, my sense of call to this ministry continued to grow and receive affirmation from others and from within.
Now in the final year of my pastoral formation, I serve as a Vicar (Pastoral Intern) at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Libertyville, IL. Here, I have the opportunity to participate in Project Healing Waters, a ministry of food, fellowship, and fishing with veterans from the James Lovell Federal Healthcare Center. I do not know where I will serve beyond this year, but it is my hope that I have the opportunity to continue the journey of ministry with veterans and their families.