My grandfather Candee had the good fortune of returning home to a farm after WWII. He had a home, a job, a purpose, and a wife. He was immediately immersed in the healing environment of Nature, what is now called, “green space,” being outdoors, and being with animals.
Many years ago, while laying under a tree at the farm, I dreamed of the farm becoming a retreat center for all warriors returning home from active duty. A place to land and stay for a time. This pause would allow for an important rite of passage- the assimilation back into civilian life.
I think it would be a good idea for us to create a program for our warriors who are crossing the threshold back into civilian life. I like the idea of retreat centers which are therapeutic and integrative. Perhaps even retreat centers that are farms, for there are always so many jobs to do on a farm, so many ways to be useful, and so many ways to be healing. There would be a whole foods, “farm to table,” diet, our excellent evidence-based methods for healing trauma, such as person-centered expressive art therapy, yoga therapy, mindfulness meditation training or transcendental meditation, EMDR, storytelling and music.
As a community, I think it’s time for us to address the needs of our returning warriors. Clearly, this is needed. For there are problems. Problems with veterans suffering from trauma, depression, and suicide. Problems with veterans being homeless and jobless. Problems with the way we, as a community, have received returning warriors.
Ways to welcome home our warriors are: 1) Healing the physical, psychological and spiritual wounds with state-of-the-art care. 2) Assisting our warriors into jobs and homes, ensuring each and every returning warrior with a place to live and a job to do. 3) Teaching our community how to support returning warriors.
What you can do is begin with a “Thank you for your service.” Next, just listen. Be present and listen. Refrain from interrogation, badgering, and questioning. Follow their lead. Ask if a warrior needs help finding a job or home. You may know someone with a spare room. Choose to hire a veteran. Understand that many veterans feel that they were just doing their job. Whether or not you believe in war, you believe in the good of humanity. So be the good of humanity.
“We were trained killers,” my dad would say, speaking of his army days. In truth, he was drafted because he had a failed grade in college. He never served in a war, rather, as chaplain’s assistant in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he met my mother singing in the church choir.
However, what we know to be true, is that the heart of military training is dehumanizing psychology. How could it be otherwise? Something is needed in order to train one human being to kill another human being. This knowledge provides us with the answer as to what warriors need when they cross the bridge back. Humanizing psychology. Humanistic psychology. What you can do to welcome home our warriors is to give them your complete acceptance and unconditional positive regard (lovingkindness). This will help.
In my grandfather’s time, the trauma of war was not spoken about nor named. Warriors were asked to simply, “move on.” Fortunately we can serve our warriors better today. May we do so.