From the Guild sprang a student group here at Duke that cultivates conversation with students, staff, and faculty, to advance the interests of prospective, current, and former service members in the church, world, and academy. Milites Christi is Latin for “soldiers of Christ”, a deliberately ambiguous (and intellectualizing) term. A small number of us were already deep into planning a 2011 Veterans Day event called After the Yellow Ribbon, and many of our supporters expressed their thoughts that having a continuing presence on campus that could carry on the work of the conference would be important. Duke Milites Christi (DMC) was born and now continues to be a conversation space for Duke and local communities in North Carolina, where one in every ten residents is a veteran.
Nearly 200 participants and about 75 speakers attended our first major event/benefit concert, After the Yellow Ribbon. The goal from the outset was to help equip past, present, and future pastors, academics, and military families engage more meaningfully with service members of faith. To kick it off, we interviewed six Duke Divinity School faculty members about what could be done in the Church to create those needed conversations space and later convened Narrating War at Duke, a seminar that packed out the lecture hall and made the front page of the university newspaper. After the Yellow Ribbon made the front page of the local news on it’s first day and got picked up by two local TV news stations (PBS and WRAL). All but three of the seminars (and Narrating War at Duke) were recorded and are now available on iTunesU for free download.
As we look to the future, DMC hopes to host a Bible study on soldiers and centurions in the New Testament in order to provide material for students and faculty to reflect on for sermons, academic papers, and other theological interpretation. We continue to host the Narrating War lunch-time series once per semester and also screen movies and documentaries focusing on soldiering and it’s spiritual and mental ramifications. God willing, After the Yellow Ribbon 2012 will be even better than before, as Veterans Day will fall on a Sunday, which is also the feast day of the patron saint of soldiers and Chaplains – St. Martin of Tours.