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Churches learn to help veterans

Workshop tells leaders how to aid servicemembers

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POSTED: March 2, 2012 12:26 p.m.

Hinesville’s Fraser Counseling Center will host a three-hour workshop called “The Invisible Wounds of War: Developing Veteran Friendly Congregations” from 2-5 p.m., Thursday, March 15.
Fraser Center Executive Director Dr. Alan Baroody said the workshop is a partnership with Care for the Troops, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Marietta.
“This is a free workshop for clergy and lay leaders,” said Baroody, a licensed marriage family therapist and a Presbyterian minister. “We hope to equip church leaders with the tools they need to help our servicemen and women as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
He said the workshop will teach church leaders to understand the military culture while helping them to recognize some of the “invisible wounds” that one-third of servicemen take home with them, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. The goal of the workshop is to help churches develop or enhance military ministries, he said.
Baroody particularly is pleased that the Fraser Center has partnered with Care for the Troops, founded by the Rev. Robert Certain, an Episcopal priest and rector in Marietta and a former Air Force fighter pilot who spent four months as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
The organization’s motto is “to care for those who have borne the battle, and their spouses, children and family.” Among the many goals listed with their mission statement at www.CareForTheTroops.org is to “connect military families to providers of spiritual and psychological services familiar with the military culture and trauma” and to address “combat stress recovery as well as other spiritual and mental health-related problems impacting the marriages and families of military veterans.”
Workshop training will be led by Baroody and Peter McCall, executive director of Care for the Troops. McCall is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., with more than nine years active-duty and Reserve service.
According to the Care for the Troops website — which cites statistics from a 2008 report, “The Invisible Wounds of War,” by the RAND Corporation — 54 percent of U.S. forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been from National Guard or Reserve units. When these citizen soldiers return home, most return to small towns that are hundreds of miles from military bases, whose medical and psychological facilities and churches are not familiar with the military culture and especially the trauma military personnel are exposed to in combat.
Georgia’s small-town communities need to be prepared to accept these veterans back home, and Care  for the Troops is committed to helping them through training programs and workshops that teach clinical personnel, community and church leaders about the unique experiences servicemen have endured and unseen scars many of them wear. The website also provides a database of therapists trained to understand the military culture and military health issues.
“We want to help churches develop or enhance a military ministry,” Baroody said. “By making congregations aware of the military and the (physical, emotional and spiritual) needs of soldiers and their families, we hope to create an environment of acceptance that builds veteran friendly congregations.”
The Fraser Counseling Center is at 203 Mary Lou Drive in Hinesville next to the YMCA. For more information about the workshop, call 369-7777.

 

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