(All-American Council, continued)
Finally, on Friday I had the privilege of presenting to the Council as part of the military chaplain’s report. I said the following,
"Karl Marlantes in his book, What It is Like to go to War writes, “Killing someone without splitting oneself from the feelings that the act engenders requires an effort of supreme consciousness, that quite frankly, is beyond most humans. Killing is what warriors do for society. Yet when they return home, society doesn’t generally acknowledge the act it asked them to do created a deep split in their psyches, or a psychological and spiritual weight most of them will stumble beneath the rest of their lives. Warriors must learn how to integrate the experience of killing, to put the pieces of their psyches back together again. For the most part, they have been left to do this on their own.”
“This statement for many, because of their personal experience as parents, brothers, sisters to those so affected is ‘no surprise.’ Similar to the words of our Lord concerning the poor, we can say, war we will always have with us. In the 246 years of existence as the United States we have known only 17 years of peace. Military action is what we do as a country. Even if the Orthodox Church should discourage participation in the military, from among our sons and daughters there will always be those who will join, enlist, and receive an officers commission. From these, there will be those who will kill in combat, and not just enemy combatants. The asymmetrical reality of today’s battlefield places “innocents” at high risk of injury and death by the hand of our Soldiers. In short, war holds the high probability of crushing the Soldiers’ soul for having done what they were trained to do. Some may be oblivious to the soul damage incurred by our sons and daughters who have survived combat because upon their exit from the military and return home, they no longer come to church. As such we don’t see what they suffer.”
“So, what do we do about it? How do we respond? I don’t have the answers. What I do know, there is a great deal of experience, and knowledge among our clergy and people, adept in affecting cure of the soul. This is my prayer, ‘God raise up from our midst, those who will be singly focused and committed to the healing of the souls of our Orthodox sons and daughters wasting away under the soul-destroying weight of having killed in combat, be they enemy combatant or innocent. Vessels of grace who may teach us how we may bring hope, love, and assurance to those suffering, that God has not cast them aside because of what they may have had to do because they were in harm’s way on our behalf.’ Amen.”
I came away from this Council satisfied with the work of her participants. To be sure, there are many issues which require address and attention, but the planners and organizers for this Council did a good job keeping all participants focused on these few and select matters. I believe seeds planted during this Council will see a bountiful harvest in the outreach, health and vitality of our Orthodox Church in America.
Fr. Peter M. Dubinin