Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Interdenominational Theology Center (ITC)

Degree Name

D.Min.

Abstract

  • In the past decade, demand for emotional, pastoral, and other support for veterans returning from the Middle East war zone, as well as their families, has escalated dramatically. In today’s military environment, service members and their families are experiencing an unprecedented number of extended deployments. The average deployment for an active duty soldier is approximately 12 to 15 months and 18 months for members of the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard. Soldiers are experiencing multiple deployments with little time in between which can be a particularly stressful time for soldiers and their families, as they prepare for deployments, cope with the separation, and deal with unexpected challenges upon return. The local community is particularly important for members of the reserve component and veterans who are often miles away from the traditional military resources offered on a military installation. This study reviewed literature on concepts, strategies and programs involved in addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for returning combat veterans. The researcher reviewed current studies on military and religious PTSD programs. Using case study methodology, this study examined the emotional, social, religious, family, health and financial impacts of war on veterans who experienced PTSD and their experiences in obtaining pastoral care and counseling from their religious institution(s). Interviews were conducted with ten military personnel who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorder as a result of their combat experiences. Veterans selected included active and inactive military from four wars, in which the United States was engaged. Research questions examined the motivation for participants to seek pastoral care for their PTSD and the extent to which participants felt their needs were met. Impact of participating in an “undeclared war” and its influence on participants’ lives was also examined. Major findings of the study revealed that:
  • Veterans have spiritual wounds that have eroded their capacity to trust.
  • Early in these young recruits’ military career, they are trained to feel and be physically fit. Nonetheless, basic training cannot prepare them for the reality and/or terror they encounter when engaging in combat.
  • The stress of constantly engaging enemy troops and the fear of being engaged is often horrific. Memories of such warfare are agonizing.
  • When soldiers return from combat, often the impact of their experiences is time-delayed. This causes confusion and results in confusion for both the soldiers and their families.
  • There are limited (often none) resources for veterans living away from military bases.
  • A pastor, viewed as God’s representative, may not be well-received.
  • Nevertheless, the fact that clergy do represent a possible source for reconnection with God provides an opportunity to accepting veterans in the midst of their doubt, cynicism, and self-loathing.

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