I don’t know how military personnel were treated in Canada in the 1960s and early ’70s, but in the U.S. they were often treated shamefully. For example, those flying home from their tour of duty in Germany or Vietnam were told to change into civilian clothes before boarding the plane. If they walked into a U.S. airport wearing their military uniforms, they risked being shouted at, cursed, even spat upon.
It wasn’t just baby boomers with long hair and sandals who mistreated veterans. Older generations joined the chorus sometimes, though in a different way. When Disability Concerns sent a request to churches concerning ministries to veterans, I received this comment (published here by permission):
Reading about this ministry kind of caught me off guard. My dad was a disabled veteran. He passed away in 1975. An elder from our church came and talked to my folks that he thought that it was wrong for my dad to get VA [Veterans Affairs] benefits. My brother talks about how he was teased at the Christian school because of my dad’s disability and VA support. My mom talks about the jealousy of some of the women. It is good to see how times and the church are changing. The disabled veteran does need encouragement, respect, and support.
I think we are doing better today than when we cursed military personnel as war-mongers or condemned them for receiving veterans’ benefits. But healthy ministry means more than not doing bad stuff; it means doing good stuff too. We had hoped this issue could tell stories of churches engaged in ministry with disabled veterans, but our requests for information about Christian Reformed and Reformed churches that engage in any sort of ministry with veterans did not yield results. We aren’t sure what to make of this silence.
I hope that your church will consider ministry with veterans as a significant way to serve men, women, and families who gave so much for their country.
Does your church have a warrior ministry? If so, please tell us about it.