Friday, May 18, 2007

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

This comes from Cindy, proud Army mom and President of St. Paul Blue Star Moms.

Below is an article that was in the St Paul MN newspaper. It
was written by Chaplain Morris of the MN National Guard. While this
article deals with the MN warriors coming home, this is a message that
applies to every single community, state in this country! The message is
powerful and perhaps, it is something that you can share with the
newspapers in your communities. If everyone does their part, the coming
home of our warriors will be without problems...but it takes everyone
doing their part in helping.

It takes communities to bring soldiers all the way home

I am watching the growing furor over the shortcomings in the Veterans
Administration system and the fallout from Walter Reed Army Hospital
with growing alarm. I am concerned that we are going to fix the crisis
and forget the problem.

The problem is how to help warriors, and their families, successfully
reintegrate back into our communities, and their homes, after combat. A
portion of that problem is health care related. For a majority of combat
vets, however, only a small part of their reintegration challenge has to
do with health care for physical injuries. Behavioral and mental health
are bigger issues. And for most, the biggest challenge is relational:
rebuilding marriages, reconnecting with children, rejoining friends,
rejoining the global economy, getting back to the communities of faith
we left, etc.

The problem with focusing on the VA is we may well fix the VA only to
convince ourselves that the reintegration of our combat veterans is a
government program, not a community process. If we expect the government
to take care of everything, we will have failed our combat veterans and
their families as well as ourselves.

We have sent our precious men and women to war. The VA can't bring them
home. Only we can. We have a moral obligation to insure that all of our
combat veterans come all the way home to their families, their jobs,
their schools and their communities.

A government program can't do that. A community can.

That means each of us needs to roll up our sleeves and do more than
castigate the VA. It means the following:

If you are a health care provider in Minnesota, do the right thing:
Become a Tricare provider. Tricare is the insurance the government
issues to mobilized reservists and guardsmen.

Two-thirds of Minnesota health care providers are not Tricare providers.
The result: We do not have an in-patient chemical dependency treatment
center in Minnesota that is a Tricare provider. We have a dire shortage
of behavioral mental health providers who are Tricare providers. The VA
can't fix this … we can.

If you are an educator, sign up for an Operation Military Kids workshop
and learn about the daunting challenges our 7,000 Minnesota military
kids face when their parent marches off to war, and when they return.
Help our children while we are at war. Parent educators, we need you to
offer classes in every school district in Minnesota, for military
families. We need your help in learning how to parent our children

If you are a member of the clergy, learn all you can about the toll
combat takes on marriages, families, mothers and fathers of military
personnel. You don't have to support the foreign policy to pray for us
while we are in harm's way and to visit our parents, our spouses and our
children while we are gone. When we come home, we need your help in
putting our marriages, families and lives back together.

If you are an employer, please give my spouse some grace. She or he is
juggling a job, a family, a home and a huge heartache. There are no laws
to protect them while we are at war, as there are to protect my job when
I come back. They struggle mightily and may need some special attention
and some extra time off. Do the right thing — help them.

If you are a social service provider, learn all you can about combat
operational stress, the challenges of reintegration for combat veterans
and the impact of war on the family system. You are our "first call for
help;" don't fail us because you choose not to invest in your
professional development.

If you are a politician, don't politicize the shortfalls in the VA or
the military medical system. We aren't pawns in an election cycle; we
are your constituents, and we are counting on you to fix the problems.
Energize the community on our behalf to do right by us. We're not asking
for showy programs. We are asking for tangible signs of support in terms
of services offered.

If you are our neighbors, and you are, don't "victimize" us. Most combat
veterans come home without PTSD, mental disorders, physical wounds or
destroyed lives. We generally readjust well and go on to live productive
lives. Expect great contributions to society from us. We won't
disappoint you. Challenge us to greatness; we know how to serve.

Watch over our families while we are gone. Extend a warm welcome home
when we return. Walk with us through the months of readjustment, and
make a place for us in the community.

If we are among the tragic few who come home physically or mentally
wounded, help us by connecting us to local, county, state and federal

Certainly, address the problems with the VA, the military medical system
and other systemic issues that face us.

But, above all … bring us all the way home.

A program can't do that. You can.

Major John Morris is a chaplain in the Minnesota Army National Guard.
For more information about his and others' ground-breaking work on
reintegrating returning soldiers, go to and look for the "Beyond the
Yellow Ribbon" link.

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