I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Home. Isn’t that where we all want to be at this special time of year? Yet there are thousands of men and women serving in our military who would consider it Christmas any time of year if they could just come back home.
Over the years, our support for our servicemen has run hot and cold, with our Vietnam vets receiving some of the worst treatment. But even today, when active military and veterans are applauded and appreciated, there are many who come home in body only—and often those bodies are damaged and changed forever. But the damage goes far beyond the physical.
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has been around for as long as there have been wars (or other extremely stressful situations). Until fairly recently, however, it wasn’t officially recognized as a disorder. Instead we referred to vets coping with PTSD symptoms as having “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” We assumed that, with time, the symptoms would disappear and the vets would move on with their lives. We have since learned that isn’t always the case.
Today, when many members of our military serve multiple deployments, often in war zones, it is highly likely that a great number of them will come home with emotional issues. Not all those issues are severe enough to qualify as PTSD, but these brave men and women may need resources beyond those provided for them by the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs).
One of the simplest ways I’ve found to encourage returning military or veterans is to make a point to thank them for their service. This is especially helpful with Vietnam vets who, for the most part, did not receive warm welcomes or words of gratitude when they returned.
Another means of helping our military is to get involved with an organization such as the USO (United Service Organizations). This long-standing group has a proven track record of helping our military, and they offer various ways to get involved in giving that help. Many local churches and Christian organizations also provide numerous ways to assist our military. An excellent organization that ministers to vets and active military personnel is “Operation Heal Our Patriots,” a part of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse ministries. Some of these opportunities are as simple as writing letters to lonely soldiers on the other side of the world, or packing and sending a box of treats to let a few sailors know how much they are appreciated.
Then, of course, there are veterans’ homes and hospitals around the country that would welcome a group or an individual to come and cheer up these men and women who gave so much to protect and defend our country and its unique freedoms. If there is a veterans’ home or hospital in your area, there will likely be a church or organization already visiting there on a regular basis. If not, perhaps you’re the one God will use to initiate such a ministry.
None of these methods of helping our active military and veterans is difficult or overly time-consuming, and they can be tailored to meet your abilities. It could be as little as a couple of hours per month, but those few hours can mean more to a hurting soldier or sailor than we could ever imagine.
Christmas is nearly upon us. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to reach out to our present or former military personnel and welcome them “home for Christmas”? And because we know the Christ of Christmas, we can extend that Christmas welcome all year long.
Kathi Macias is an award-winning writer with more than fifty books to her credit. Her newest release, Return to Christmas, features a Marine who comes home from his second deployment with PTSD. His wife and child are nearly as impacted by this disorder as the Marine is. Can his child’s friend, a three-year-old with his own bad memories, break through this man’s defensive wall to start the healing process?