When we were planning our Veteran Christian group in 2017 one of our Advisory Council members asked an obvious question, that I didn’t at first understand. He asked, “Would it would be appropriate for me to attend since I did not serve in the military.” I didn’t understand because at Lone Star Veterans Association our motto for events is that they’re fun, positive, and inclusive. We have focused on inclusivity recently because we were founded with a focus on Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans but decided to expand our focus to all eras of service and to civilian supporters. It was at that point that we discussed how important it was for this group to focus on not just attracting Christian Veterans, but any Christian that wants to hear a veteran share his or her faith journey.
The design of our affinity groups and community building impact model is based on the idea that we can relate and build trust very quickly when we have a shared life experience. This is the foundation of the veteran community. It is why I can meet a smart Vietnam era Air Force warrior and establish a bond quickly even though I’m a knuckle dragging infantry guy that was in Iraq. Despite differing eras and branches of service, there is a shared experience that makes us understandable and relatable immediately. I experience a similar feeling when I meet another Christian from a different country. What happens if we take two shared identities and overlay them? We can have deep, meaningful conversations and relationships quickly.
Through our shared faith, non-veterans and veterans can communicate in a way that takes an idealized war hero off a metaphorical pedestal and puts the veteran in the pew next to them. We are all children of God. No better, no worse.
The format encourages the participants to tell stories that otherwise might not be told. For example, one of our speakers is someone I’ve known for over two decades and is one of my lifelong best friends. There have been months when we talked every day. He told the group a story about how his combat tour motivated him to renew his faith. We had talked a lot, but we never had the intentional discussion of how our faith had influenced our service, and how our service had deepened our faith. If this group does nothing else, it has given me a perspective on my friend that I never would have had and I’m grateful for that.
Why do Christians need Veteran Christians? Because that might be the fastest or only way they’ll truly understand their service and their experience. If we can understand the road another has traveled I think that we understand better where we’re going ourselves.
I hope you will join us at our next Veteran Christian luncheon. We have some amazing speakers and a room full of the faithful.