Event wants to identify ways faith community can help soldiers returning from war
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/14/13 at 2:51 PM
Correction: A Saturday Tulsa World religion page story misattributed several quotes. This story has been corrected.
A group of war veterans, ministers and social service workers met Tuesday to discuss how faith communities can help returning service men and women readjust to life in Tulsa.
The Rev. Ray Hickman, executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, who organized the event, said he hoped it would be the first of several meetings to develop initiatives to help veterans and to develop a "theology for returning warriors."
Hickman said thousands of Americans returning from war struggle with a variety of issues.
Many have served faithfully in the military but have found their moral compass "blasted out of balance by the horrors of war," he said.
"There is growing evidence that our warriors need to be given a chance to reappraise their moral compass and either reset it or renew their confidence in long-held cultural and religious values.
"Faithful people can have a big part to play in helping our warriors find their way home," Hickman said.
Several participants in the round-table discussion stressed the importance of giving veterans an opportunity to tell their stories.
"Talking about it is probably the best therapy," said Tracy Jones-Williams, a combat support veteran who served 15 months in Baghdad, Iraq.
"But it's really hard. I haven't really talked about it," she said. "It's hard putting those experiences into words."
Combat changes people spiritually, said a machine gunner in the first Gulf War who did not wish to be identified.
The gunner said soldiers who are ordered to do things that violate their upbringing can suffer from what one writer has called "moral injury," in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical and emotional problems they might have.
Faith communities that sent them off with ceremonies and praise for serving God and country often do little or nothing to recognize their return, she said.
"There is no re-entry process," she said.
The phrase that there are no atheists in foxholes is untrue, she said. Some people lose their faith after being exposed to the horrors of war, and others find faith in crisis situations.
Chaplain Frank Kiker, a veteran of the Korean War, is with the Guardians of Freedom Ministries, which works with veterans.
He said some returning combat veterans suffer traumatic brain injury from being near explosions that can leave them with headaches, depression, suicidal thoughts and the inability to concentrate enough to go to school or hold a job.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which they spend an hour a day in a high-pressure, high-oxygen chamber, is helping many of them, Kiker said.
They also need spiritual help, he said, and answers to the question, "Where was God?"
Original Print Headline: Event's goal is to support those returning from war
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
The Rev. Ray Hickman hopes to develop ways the faith community can help veterans. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World file