" Bringing Them All Back Home "
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
This week, we will be observing the 240th anniversary of the founding of our republic. The fourth of July has been a time set aside to reflect upon what it means as a nation where people are given the rights of freedom, happiness and self-determination. The freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, of course, are preserved through the armed forces that protect us.
Over the past fifteen years now, our country has been engaged in the on-going global war on terrorism ( GWOT ).There have been more than 2 million Americans have been deployed overseas. U.S. Veterans: By the Numbers - ABC News abcnews.go.com › Nov 11, 2011 - .. The continuing redeployment of troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria has been a strain not only on the fighting force, but has also created tremendous pressures on families, on employers of military reservists particularly municipal police and fire departments, state and federal agencies.
The great challenge has been for service members returning after serving in a combat environment and feeling able and comfortable to reintegrate in a civilian environment. Sebastian Junger in his book " Tribe: On Homecoming And Belonging " notes:
"Today's Veterans often come home to find that, although they're willing to die for their country, they're not sure how to live for it. It's hard to know how to live for a country that regularly tears itself apart along every ethnic and demographic boundary. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, many people live in racially segregated communities, the elderly are mostly sequestered from public life, and rampage shootings happen so regularly that they only remain in the news cycle for a day or two. To make matters worse, politicians occasionally accuse rivals of deliberately trying to harm their own country- a charge so destructive to group unity that most past societies would probably have punished it as a form of treason".
Military service members return from war as changed persons. They are not the same people as they were before. This can cause alarm and distress for family members, especially partners. The reintegration process will likely have to include the realization that there will be "a new normal " between the service member, their family and community. We do a dis-service to those who fight on our behalf thinking that they should just pick up their lives from where they left off and continue as if nothing has happened to them.
Fighting for freedom is a disquieting process. There are sacrifices and losses that occur, be they loss of human life, loss of relationships with partners, loss of businesses or enduring long periods, sometimes years, of separation from partners and from other family members. A friend of mine recently commented that they really wanted to start expanding their " herd " of support. My friend indicated that they wanted me as a member of their " herd. " This was a great compliment to me.
As we celebrate our country's freedom, let us be mindful that it is our sacred obligation to be able to bring everyone who serves on our behalf home, physically, mentally and spiritually. We also need to allow military service members the freedom to establish their own sense of " home " in the here and now. When we don't pursue this duty we only magnify the trauma further for our troops.
May we bring them all back home.
May it be so.