As a kid he was popular and athletic and maybe a little on the wild side. He was about 7-8 years older than me, but when you grow up in a small town you know almost everyone. He, like most, left town after graduating from high school. I assumed he went off to college, but later learned he had been drafted.
And there he sat on the bench in the middle of main street. His hair was a tangled mess and his face was consumed by a thick matted beard. His clothes were dirty and tattered and you could smell him from five feet away. But long before you could smell him, you could hear his loud nonsensical gibberish.
War is a terrible experience. Every veteran I have spoken with has shared with me the impact military service has had on their mind, body and soul. Even those who physically make it out unscathed have been exposed to some of the most gruesome sites known to humanity. As such, even in the best of circumstances, it is completely understandable why transition back to civilian life can be so challenging.
Ever since that first encounter with the young man from my home town, I have been troubled by what appears to be a clear lack of support for those who have served. It is my understanding that suicide, mental health issues, unemployment, and home foreclosures are higher for veterans than any other group of people.
Amidst these often daunting circumstances, many of our faith communities have been an oasis in the desert. Food, shelter, counseling, care and compassion are a very welcome relief for those who feel not only isolated, but marginalized.
As Veteran’s Day approaches, please give thanks to and for those who have served, support those who presently serve, and please be the loving arms of Jesus to those veterans who struggle in any way.