After the Yellow Ribbon

How do we promote healing of the hidden wounds of war in our communities and in our lives – what do we do After the Yellow Ribbon?

Milites Christi, an emerging student group at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC,  is  convening the conference After the Yellow Ribbonin order to develop tools that church, military and academic communities can use in order to approach service members and veterans as human beings, and to understand and heal the unseen wounds of war (including PTSD and moral injury). After the Yellow Ribbon is an opportunity for these communities in particular to listen to and learn from those who endure the burden of doing violence in our name.

Veterans today suffer from the highest rate of suicide in our nation’s history, have startlingly high rates of prescription drug and alcohol abuse, and are often thought of as “damaged goods.”  Our society must accept the responsibility of acknowledging and confronting the moral fragmentation that our service members suffer as a result of their experiences in war. We are Milites Christi, a newly forming Duke University student group. We invite practitioners of all disciplines, from music and the arts to theology and mental health, to respond to the challenge presented by the plight of soldiers and veterans in our midst.  We want to work together to improve our efforts at prevention and reconstitution, and overcome this tragic epidemic.

Purpose of the Conference:

As a completely student initiated and led effort, we are committed to learning from one another, presenters and participants alike. Several of the organizers, many of whom are themselves veterans, have expressed overwhelming disappointment that conversations about military service (in classrooms, congregations, and clinics) have become muddled by ideological or political influences. Individual service members, however, need to be able to have these conversations healthfully in order to process their experiences, which are often incredibly significant in their depth of meaning, but also their graphic nature – how do we glean these nuanced experiences from service members without putting them in the blinding glare of the social spotlight?

Our methodology for this conference is not authoritative; we do not expect to have the answers, but we want to guide churches and classrooms into more meaningful ways of interacting with those who commit violence in our name – whether we agree with it or not, whether it fits our ideological framework or violates it. Soldier suicides are at epidemic levels, and many of us feel that is reflective of our collective failure to have open, respectful, and meaningful dialog in our society. Our goal is not to send people away with answers, but with hope. We will consider the conference a success if, when you leave to return to your corner of the globe, you have let out a big sigh… and are taking your next deep breath in, preparing for the work ahead. We invite you to come to the conference with questions, with concerns, but most importantly, with compassion.


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