A thoughtful discussion among a group of Episcopalians has developed into a program for congregations, clergy and individuals to help military families and troops returning from war areas. CareForTheTroops is a not-for-profit interfaith effort designed to address the spiritual and psychological needs of military families while working with congregations to make them more welcoming and understanding of the issues they face. The comprehensive website, www.CareForTheTroops.org, provides tools, resources and links aimed to equip congregations to reach out and support the military and/or their family members.
In the planning stages for 15 months, CareForTheTroops was created by clergy and laity of the Diocese of Atlanta. “The idea started with the Rev. Robert Certain, an Episcopal priest and ex-POW, and Billy Harrison, a vestry member and former Air Force officer, at St. Peter and St. Paul in Marietta, Georgia. I joined shortly thereafter,” recalls Peter McCall, currently the Executive Director. “It’s meant to be an interfaith effort to help all who have mental health needs associated with the current and previous wars. Their primary target audiences are not only the military member and their immediate family, but also the entire extended family system, congregation and community leaders, and civilian mental health professionals to help them better understand the military culture and trauma, and thus be better equipped to help those in need.”
He added, “We’re not pro-war, we’re not anti-war. We want to help the troops and their families by starting a military ministry of awareness and acceptance.”
According to the website, goals for the program are:
- To work to improve the ability of the civilian mental health infrastructure in the State of Georgia, then nationally, to work with military family members
- To facilitate connecting military families to providers of spiritual and psychological services familiar with the military culture and trauma
- To focus on addressing combat stress recovery as well as other spiritual and mental health related problems impacting the marriages and families of military veterans
- To educate and train clinicians, congregations and community leaders, extended family, and civilian groups about the military culture and trauma associated with military deployments in order to better assess and treat mental health symptoms, and provide more effective referrals and care and provide opportunities for additional trauma treatment training to clinicians
- To operate in an interfaith, non-political manner, focusing on the humanitarian interest that benefits the veterans and their extended family members
CareForTheTroops has attracted the attention and support of Bishop Suffragan George Packard of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Federal Ministries as well as Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta, who wrote to his diocese on May 11, 2009:
I am pleased to announce a new ministry initiated by the rector and people of St. Peter and St. Paul in Marietta.
On May 1, CareForTheTroops was launched as a 501(c)(3) charity to benefit military members, veterans, and their families. They are developing a coalition of faith groups, civic leaders, the Georgia Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and clinicians to specialize in treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder as a network of civilian groups to fill the gaps where the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs leave off.
CareForTheTroops provides an excellent model for others to use in creating a meaningful, long-term ministry to our men and women who have borne the burden of battle.