Veteran’s Day is a time for us to honor and celebrate those who have served our country. It’s a day to reflect on how we can better serve those who have served us. With that in mind, I recently spoke to veterans and those who support them to find out what we can all do to offer more help to these brave service members.
The Battle Within
Adam Magers is a combat veteran who served in Iraq. After the tragic events of 9/11, he, like many Americans, was motivated to join up.
After Magers came home and was working through his recovery process, those he served with often reached out to him for help. While working at a camp that held retreats, he had an idea to start an organization to help veterans, which evolved into a nonprofit organization called The Battle Within. Based in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, it creates pathways and experiences for veterans, first responders, and frontline medical personnel to find healing and hope.
“I get to play a role in ensuring that other veterans like me get the best possible quality of services,” Magers said. The Battle Within features the Revenant Journey, a five-day program that is meant to be a jump start to the therapy process, addressing underlying issues that keep so many veterans from succeeding in therapy.
I asked him how society could offer more support. “A lot of it is advocating for veterans,” he said. “Making sure veterans have the resources they need to come home and recover from the things they’ve experienced. Listening to their stories—not trying to correct them or fix them or anything like that—but just honoring their story as it is and respecting it as their truth, giving them the space to mourn and to heal.”
Another way he thinks people can better support those who are serving their country is to be well-informed and vote for candidates who align with their values. “One of the most important things is that civilians recognize that whether they fight in the wars or not, they still play some kind of role in the fact that the war exists,” Mager said. “Whether we like it or not, warriors are sent on behalf of the nation, and those decisions are made by people who are collectively elected.”
The Value of Human Life
While Magers voluntarily joined the military, Michael March is a Vietnam veteran with a different story. He was drafted to serve in a war he didn’t necessarily agree with. “I served my country, but I thought what we were doing was not the right thing,” he says. “I was in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, but I was never against the guys who were serving because they were like me.”
Over the years, he was able to reflect on the experience and appreciate how it made him more compassionate. “It made me a more caring and better person by having gone through the experience. Because you’re in there with people from all walks of life. So you see that, and you also realize the value of human life.”
He also spoke about how he has found healing as a writer and a musician. “I always liked expressing myself through art,” he said. He is the author of Each One a Hero: A Novel of War and Brotherhood and says when he is writing, “I feel like it’s not just me writing. It’s God helping to guide me.”
Spirituality has also been an important part of healing for him as he attends and sings at Unity North Atlanta. When asked what he would say to any struggling veterans, he said, “I would tell them to search inside themselves. God’s inside all of us. That’s why I like going to Unity church, because it makes me feel like I’m part of something. We’re all part of something, and we all belong together. We’re striving to make a better world.”
A Model of Healing
Unity minister Steve Colladay has always strived to make a better world. He did not serve, but after the Vietnam War, he read an article about the veteran suicide rate that stunned him—and he wanted to do anything he could to offer his support. When he stopped by a vet counseling center and was asked to cofacilitate a combat vet group, he was unsure but ultimately listened to his inner guidance.
During this time, he was able to see more clearly the needs of these brave service members. “It was beyond words,” he said. “The pain, the horror, the sadness.” Throughout his life, he has worked with vet centers and organizations dedicated to supporting veterans, and he is currently involved with The Battle Within, which has an office on the Unity Village campus.
“They have a model of service—a model of healing—that is exquisite,” he said. “It touches all the bases in a way that is nontraditional and in a way that dives deeply into each individual and what their story is and not as much about what their story in the past was.”
Magers said story is incorporated into the healing work at The Battle Within. “We lean on ancient myths from all around the world,” he said. “One of the spiritual qualities of that is that if you look at these myths from all over the world—whether it be from the Navajo tradition, Celtic tradition, Nordic tradition, or Ancient Greek tradition—all of these stories have the same themes, the same archetypal elements. And when you share these stories with these warriors, they recognize it because a lot of the themes in this myth are things they have dreamed about, things they have lived themselves. And so when they encounter these stories, for them it’s like holding up a mirror where they can understand themselves and understand their experiences differently.”
After speaking with these three inspiring men, I realized a common theme. For those who have served our country, support and healing are available—whether it’s through an organization like The Battle Within, a church or spiritual community, techniques like meditation and emotional regulation skills, therapy and psychiatric medicine, or a combination of these things. Help is out there.