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Old 10-31-2004, 04:52 PM
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How is Spirituality related to combat?

How is Spirituality Related to Combat?

Virtually every war that has ever been fought has been supported by at least one religion2 Faith in divine approval has helped soldiers go into battle confident their own cause was righteous and faith has strengthened their courage and convictions. Religious influences have also created moral confusion, however, because the same act of violence might be considered a sacred duty in one situation, or a violation of religious teachings in another situation. Victorious warriors usually believe they have pleased a God or gods, while defeat might be interpreted as divine punishment or displeasure.

Exposure to traumatic combat experiences often leads to a search for meaning and purpose within a personal and collective sense -- seeking the answers to myriad questions about the painful realities of warfare, the value of personal existence, and the value of the human race3,4,5,6,7,8. Faith that God is constantly available to respond to oneís hopes, fears, anxieties, and tragedies can be shattered9 Individuals who are unable to resolve challenges to their moral and spiritual beliefs might find themselves in a state of spiritual alienation, which can take many forms: Feeling abandoned by God, rejecting God, feeling that God was powerless to help and therefore unavailable, feeling wartime pain was punishment from God, or at its most extreme, believing that Godís ultimate punishment will be eternal damnation.

Why Is Spirituality an Important Issue for Vietnam Combat Veterans?

Most American soldiers who fought in Vietnam believed at first that their cause was just. Some held firm in their belief while others became disillusioned. Some soldiers used their faith as a source of strength to help them endure their pain and suffering, while the faith of others was shattered when they came to believe that a loving God was not present to provide concern, protection, and divine assistance. Mahedy6, a combat chaplain who became a team leader in the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program in 1979, counseled soldiers in the field and after the war. He found that many of the veterans seeking treatment had difficulty making sense of combat situations that did not fit with their moral or spiritual beliefs. Many of these veterans felt spiritually alienated, or isolated from their God.

Soldiers adhering to monotheistic beliefs generally may have a greater struggle with spiritual isolation than pagan warriors. Shay compared Achilles of Troy with Vietnam combatants7 Achilles, who worshiped many gods, could be out of favor with one god while receiving support from another. Most American soldiers fighting in Vietnam came from a monotheistic Christian background. Those who believed they were out of favor with, or who rejected the one God in whom they believed, were likely to feel spiritually isolated.

On the other hand, some Vietnam veterans have experienced spiritual and/or psychological growth as a result of their combat experiences. The National Conference of Vietnam Veteran Ministers has members who have used the wisdom they gained through their own suffering, as well as their ability to overcome personal struggles with faith issues, to develop spiritual retreats for veterans and their wives. Point Man International Ministries is a Christian organization that provides outreach to veterans as well as non-veteran disadvantaged individuals
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