By Jenny Scott
An alarming twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives; but, an LCMS Northern Illinois District Partnership Grant provided to Immanuel Lutheran Church, Crystal Lake is allowing the laity there to make a difference in their veteran community.
On June 11, 2022, Bob Dorn, Jr., Vice Commander of American Legion Post 171, led a Vets for Vets and Blue Families event on the church’s campus. Dorn, who served in Vietnam, was Director of Outreach for Immanuel for eight years and continues to work for the church. Most importantly, this event gave the opportunity for Immanuel laity to share the Gospel by building relationships with the veteran community to share the Gospel of Christ.
There are a number of factors that can cause veterans to experience stress and trauma after service, including PTSD, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, and chemical injuries. There is also something known as a moral injury, when action in war goes against everything someone has always believed in, such as “Thou shall not kill.” Witnessing atrocities like women and children being killed can also cause moral injuries. Spiritual counseling from the church can be crucially important in dealing with such suffering.
Veterans who attended the event had access to a myriad of important resources. There were also children’s activities, a petting zoo, a Harley Davidson demo, coffee cafes, and six speakers including Medal of Honor recipient Allen Lynch.
In addition, the equine organization Bravehearts performed a drill team of veterans on horseback. Bravehearts’ whole purpose is to connect horses with people as a catalyst for wellness. Operation Wild Horse also participated. They work with only mustangs, a breed of horse proven to develop amazing bonds with veterans.
“There is something magical about a mustang in the same pen as someone with PTSD,” said Dorn. “These horses are truly a creation that God gave us, and I don’t think most people realize the power they have.”
The number one focus of the American Legion is the mitigation of suicide. Their current campaign is “Be the One.” Be the one to start the conversation, to ASK veterans in your life how they’re doing, to LISTEN when they need to talk, and to REACH OUT when a veteran is struggling.
“The NID grant has allowed us to continue this crucial veterans outreach in our community,” said Dorn. “As Christians, we should be in this with both feet.”
WITNESS: Encouraging personal witnessing, congregational engagement with their community, support of our NID partnerships and missions and sharing in a world mission field together.