HELENA – There’s no one solution for veterans suffering from PTSD when they return home from service but having compassionate and trained professionals to guide them can help.
Clergy members to counselors met on Tuesday in Helena to talk about the best way to care for those who served.
Saint Peter’s Hospital, the Montana VA Healthcare system, Carroll College and others are offering free training to address the psychological behavior, physical behavior and the spiritual effect of war trauma on survivors and their families.
VA chaplain for Montana Tim Weidlich says it’s important that people — especially clergy members — understand how to support those who are struggling with returning to civilian life.
“I’ve been able to listen and to hear and even think a little bit differently about the kinds of things they go through that I had no idea before,” he explained.
“Community Clergy Training: Wounds of War” will take place on April 11 and is aimed at educating clergy members, counselors and the medical community on issues facing returning veterans.
“Our hope is that it helps attendees understand veterans better and understand the wounds that they receive as a result of war,” said Brandy Keely, Carroll College Veterans Services Coordinator, “and give them the tools so they can better help serve them.”
Attendees will learn common practices for broaching sometimes difficult subjects with veterans and be connected with VA, community mental health and other faith-based programs.
Keely notes in Montana veterans will often turn to their local priest, pastor — or other faith leader — before seeking professional help.
“The more that the clergy understands and can identify with the veteran the better prepared they’re going to be serve them,” said Keely.
Weidlich stressed the importance of community leaders understanding how to support those who are struggling with returning to civilian life.
As a pastor, Weidlich had a Veteran of Vietnam whose family attended his church regularly, but the veteran would never attend himself.
“One day I asked him why he wasn’t attending when it clearly meant so much to his family,” explained Weidlich. “He look at me with this really sad look and he said, ‘Oh Pastor, God could never forgive me for the things I did and saw in Vietnam.”
Weidlich admits at the time he didn’t understand why the man would feel that way. The more time the Chaplin spoke with other veterans the more he began to see the differences in helping them compared to a civilian.
Click here to learn more about the April 11 event in Helena.