Twenty-five veterans and civilians, gathered in the Fellowship Hall of Epiphany Lutheran Church of Mount Vernon and observed Memorial Day by participating in the first Life Bridge Dialogue: Veterans & Civilians.
The evening began by asking the veterans in the room to stand. Ten veterans got to their feet, and were thanked and honored for their courage and commitment in service to our country.
Next, those who have family members in the military were asked to stand. Ten more got up from their seats. They were thanked for their sacrifice, having their loved ones placed in harm’s way on behalf of our nation.
Finally, those still seated were asked to stand. They were acknowledged as the most important people in the room, as they were willing to extend themselves beyond their own experience in order to foster understanding and to bring healing. The hope of all would be that their number would grow.
The participants broke into small mixed groups of veterans and civilians and discussed how war had impacted each of their lives. Looking around the room, it was obvious that these conversations were striking a nerve. People leaned forward in their seats, sharing their experiences. Heads nodded in response.
One veteran talked about the gap he perceived between the military and civilians today. “We’re out fighting and dying and the people back home are shopping.”
A Vietnam era marine talked about the questions his service raised for him. Questions he struggled with still to this day. He shared how he was sure going to ask God about them at the pearly gates.
The veterans talked about the deep bonds that existed between soldiers, and how they missed that in civilian life.
The Rev. Tuck Bowerfind, rector of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, reminded all of the sacredness of the sacrifice of those who serve “with oven mitts” at home. “No one’s sacrifice is greater or more honorable than another’s. The sacrifice may be different, but the pain of war is ultimately shared one way or another, by all of us.”
Future Life Bridge Veterans and Civilians Dialogues are being planned for later this year. Watch for information and visit www.lifebridgeservices.org to join our mailing list. You will be notified of the next Dialogue, and learn more about the In Our Own Words veterans writing project for which we are currently taking registrations and submissions.
Be part of the healing. Add your voice to the conversation. You have something we all need to hear.