November 11th is Veterans Day. It is an official United States holiday in which we honor the men and woman who have served in the Armed Forces.
Veterans Day honors all who have served, while Memorial Day remembers those who lost their lives in service of their country. There are more than 21.5 million veterans in our country today.
We have veterans from numerous wars living in our country; and although the conflicts and the issues surrounding each of our wars is different, they have one thing in common: they all have persons in their ranks who have suffered disabilities.
There are 3.5 million veterans with service-connected disabilities, and an estimated 800,000 of them have severe disabilities. These include loss of limbs, hearing loss, vision loss, disfigurement and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few. In addition, there is a high rate of suicide and attempted suicide and many who have suffered from sexual trauma while in the military.
Veterans Day can be observed every day of the year. It needs to be a constant concern for us as we show our appreciation for those who have sacrificed much for our country.
Many of these veterans live in our communities and some are members and constituents of our churches. Their disabilities not only affect the veterans but also their spouses and children and extended families.
There are numerous opportunities for us to be in ministry with our veterans. I commend the churches in our area whose members visit veterans hospitals, or offer volunteer hospitality at military installations, or surround local families with love and support. I hope more will be inspired to follow their good example.
The United Methodist Endorsing Agency of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the agency responsible for chaplaincy, offers some practical suggestions:
- Educate churches about typical issues and about available resources.
- Keep service members and their families in prayer.
- Support family members by offering practical assistance with indoor and outdoor household tasks, including child care and meals.
- Refer veterans and family members to professional counseling services.
- Offer support groups and Bible studies (with child care).
- Create a “Circle of Care” that provides consistent, ongoing support to families.
- Remember veterans during our worship services.
- Send “thank you” cards and letters of encouragement.
Remember to support our chaplains who work in the military as well. Our area has several United Methodist chaplains who regularly support those on the front lines of service. They too need our prayers and remembrance as they minister to veterans, providing healing and help.
As the holidays are approaching along with the season of Thanksgiving, think of ways that your church can learn more about the veterans in your area, particularly those with disabilities, and how best to assist them. If every church did something there would be so much more encouragement and hope for our veterans and their families.
Source: The Church and People with Disabilities: Awareness, Accessibility, and Advocacy, by Peggy A. Johnson (United Methodist Women’s “Mission U” Study, 2014)