How do we promote healing of the hidden wounds of war in our congregations, classrooms, and communities - what do we do After the Yellow Ribbon?
A student veteran group we helped form at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC, convened the After the Yellow Ribbon conference in order to develop tools that church, military and academic communities can use in order to approach service members and veterans as human beings, and to understand and heal the unseen wounds of war (including PTSD and moral injury). After the Yellow Ribbon provides resources for these communities in particular to listen to and learn from those who endure the burden of doing violence in our name.
We want to guide the Church into more meaningful ways of interacting with those who commit violence whether we agree with it or not, regardless of whether it fits our ideological framework or violates.
Veterans today suffer from the highest rate of suicide in our nation’s history, have startlingly high rates of prescription drug and alcohol abuse, and are often thought of as “damaged goods.” Our society must accept the responsibility of acknowledging and confronting the moral fragmentation that our service members suffer as a result of their experiences in war. Milites Christi invited practitioners of all disciplines, from music and the arts to theology and mental health, to respond to the challenge presented by the plight of soldiers and veterans in our midst. Let's to work together to improve our efforts at prevention and reconstitution, and overcome this tragic epidemic.
Purpose of the Conference:
As a completely student initiated and led effort, we committed to learning from one another, presenters and participants alike. Several of the organizers, many of whom are themselves veterans, expressed overwhelming disappointment that conversations about military service (in classrooms, congregations, and clinics) have become overwhelmed by ideological or political influences. Individual service members, however, need to be able to have these conversations healthfully in order to process their experiences, which are often incredibly significant in their depth of meaning, but also their graphic nature - how do we glean these nuanced experiences from service members without putting them in the blinding glare of the social spotlight?
The methodology for this conference was not authoritative; we never expected to have the answers, but wanted to guide churches and classrooms into more meaningful ways of interacting with those who commit violence in our name - whether we agree with it or not, whether it fits our ideological framework or violates it. Soldier suicides are at epidemic levels, and many of us feel that is reflective of our collective failure to have open, respectful, and meaningful dialog in our society. The goal was not to give concrete answers, but inspire hope.
In 2015, the responsibility of carrying the conversations from the conference forward passed to us, freeing Milites Christi to continue to focus on the needs and concerns specific to the Duke community.
Collected Media & News Items:
After the Yellow Ribbon in the News;
- “Div School Group Emphasizes Veterans’ ‘Moral Sacrifice’” Alice Deguelle, Duke Chronicle, Oct. 28
- “Divinity Students Organize ‘After the Yellow Ribbon’” Andy Scott, Duke Divinity Communications, Nov. 3
- “Join the (Growing?) Conversation” Logan Mehl-Laituri, Red Letter Christians, Nov. 4
- “Ecumenical Eucharist Celebrating the Feast of St. Martin” David Steenburg, Goodson Chapel, Nov. 8
- “Duke Divinity School Explores Ministering to Veterans” David Crabtree, WRAL, Nov. 8
- “A preview of After the Yellow Ribbon at Duke University” Mitchell Lewis, UNC-TV, North Carolina Now, Nov. 8
- “After the War: Coming to Grips With Faith & Service” Dawn Vaughn, Durham Herald-Sun, Nov. 11
- “When Soldiers Become Saints” Shane Claiborne, Huffington Post, Nov. 11 (also with video HERE)
- “Kilner Explains the Overlooked Beauty of War” Yueran Zhang, Duke Chronicle, Nov. 14
- “How Churches Can Help Military Families” Dawn Vaughn, Durham Herald-Sun, Nov. 12
- “Healing the Unseen Wounds of War” Duke Divinity School, Nov. 18
- “Duke Divinity School Students Aim to Heal ‘Unseen War Wounds’” Religion Herald, Nov. 24