By Rev. Bill McDonald
I have been working at both the spiritual and emotional levels for over 40 years with veterans in dealing with the adverse effects of war. When the fighting stops and the war is off the front pages of the newspapers and it is no longer worthy of any television coverage, unfortunately the pain and the cost of war still goes on. It is this human element of war that I have dedicated my adult life to. This has been up to now, just a personal effort on my part to bring about some healing; but now I have some hope that this can become a much larger community response.
One must forget the politics, or the reasons for any war. This is all about real people, human beings, who are souls! The sad fact is that wars were not fought by the policy makers in Washington DC but by young men and women who wear the various uniforms of our nations services. Now, we are dealing with many damaged souls out there that need us.
Jay Ponti, whom I have been meditating with for years and who is also a fellow teacher of kriya yoga, has managed to merge the two communities that I am a serious part of: “veterans” and “mediators.” Through the umbrella of his own “Peacelink Live Network“ and all of his wonderful connections, we have managed to create a centralized veteran cooperative of organizations and people working to bring about some inner harmony and peace to the lives of veterans.
Unfortunately, the answer for most PTSD and Brain Injured veterans is to administer more and more pharmaceuticals that only mask the pain and the emotional issues. In the process, it also robs them of truly knowing their “higher self.” In that constant state of being drugged up they lose touch with even the basic reality of who they are. These are not spiritual or emotional cures at all. It also creates a dependency on those drugs just to exist and function. In my own life, I found long ago, that my own health (mentally, spiritually and even physically) improved with my daily meditation practices. It is something very real and tangible and it can be taught and shared with others!
I am a veteran advocate and spend some time in Sacramento to lobby on behalf of veteran related legislation for the State of California. I do believe that there are tools that can be legislated that will help the veteran community as a whole. When Peacelink Live hooked up with me on other veteran related issues I became very enthusiastic about what Congressman Tim Ryan was trying to do. I realized that here was a pathway for my warriors and for my meditators to join hands as human beings and work together. It is so much more than just a symbolic effort. This is something solid and works! This is a program that could change lives for the better.
In my own programs that I use for veterans, I open that door to meditation for those who are receptive. For those afraid of even the word “YOGA” I teach them simple Christian meditations and also accommodate those of other faiths. I am not trying to change anyone’s belief or religions. This is about getting in touch with that quiet place in their heart and mind where they can facilitate their own healing from within. Congressman Tim Ryan’s bill could be a part of that process but it needs lots of support from others outside of the veteran community. It needs the voices of those who know the benefits of meditation practice first hand. I do hope that you will join this cause and make some effort to reach out with getting this bill before congress for a vote.
As a highly decorated combat veteran of The Vietnam War, I know firsthand what these young warriors have been dealing with. When I came back to my home in San Francisco in 1967 during the so-called “Summer of Love” I was proudly wearing my uniform with all my ribbons on my chest. I found myself greeted by a very hostile and unforgiving mob of people who blamed me for the war. That really hurt me deeply then. It was that strong memory of how others and I were treated that has motivated me to help my fellow veterans all these years since.
But there are other things that we can all do to help veterans and that is by reaching out to those you personally know or meet along your journey. It is a real shame in this nation that 22 veterans on the average commit suicide each and every day! That is the price when no one reaches out to extend a hand! Let us save lives and save souls!
Rev. Bill McDonald: Author (“A Spiritual Warrior’s Journey” and many other books) Award winning poet, International Motivational Speaker, Minister, Yoga Teacher, Veteran Advocate, Member of Peacelink Network – Military Coalition, Founder of “The American Author’s Association” and “The Military Writer’s Society of America”, Vietnam War veteran (The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Bronze Star, 14 Air Medals, The Purple Heart, The Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and other medals), Advisor for documentary & other films (PBS and The Military Channels, Discovery Channel, etc. )
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This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 7: Veterans Health Coalition