The Oregon National Guard hopes to add churches and faith-based groups in The Dalles to its new network of communities providing outreach to military members and their families.
A one-day summit is set for Wednesday, Aug. 21, hosted by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1805 Minnesota St., to discuss the “Partners in Care” program.
The free program will run from 9 a.m. to noon, and leaders, staff, volunteers and community members from denominational and faith-based organizations are invited.
Seven speakers are packed into the three-hour program, and the focus will be on the military culture, issues faced by returning veterans including post-traumatic stress and awareness of what to look for as far as symptoms of it, and ways that churches can help reach out to military families and service members.
It will also touch on the effects of deployments on families and children, the spiritual and emotional impacts of deployment, the needs of service members, veterans and families before, during and after deployment, and the challenges of transitioning back into civilian life.
Oregon National Guard Chaplain Dan Thompson said the program is a year old, and already has 29 churches or faith-based groups signed up to help. The goal is to reach 100 communities with a Partners in Care program.
One group decided to help support military families by providing diapers for young families, he said. It’s called Diapers for Defense, and it’s just one way that a group decided to fill a need.
Another faith-based group decided to send parish nurses out to make home visits to young families.
Thompson said the goal of the program is to provide a resource for military families that is not connected to the military.
“Basically, we have a lot of military families that don’t want the military directly involved in their business. In any other workplace, you don’t want the people you work with to know your personal areas.
“We’re hoping the community side of things will give military families other options for help and support.”
It’s not only a function of providing as many avenues of support as possible, but encouraging military members to access it.
“A lot of military families aren’t very good at asking for help and there’s a lot of pride involved,” Thompson said. “If they can do it without everybody knowing about it, it’s better for them. I wouldn’t say back door, but more of an indirect way of getting help without everybody knowing about it.”
Thompson said the goal is to have churches and faith-based organizations provide for military families the services they already provide for their congregations.
“Just basic family-type support stuff,” he said.
He also said the program aims to have care provided to military families regardless of their religious beliefs. “This is not a religious event, this is service to those who are serving the country.”
As for providing insight into the military life, Thompson said, in the military world, “we’re often blunt and a little direct and people can take it the wrong way.”
Attendees at the summit will also be given a list of military resources so they can pass that information along to anybody in their congregation who is in need.
Post-traumatic stress, in particular, will be the main topic of discussion, and tips for how to identify it and work with it will be presented.
Post-traumatic stress, among other things, can make people “highly emotional,” Thompson said. The summit will talk about dealing effectively with someone with post-traumatic stress.
“It’s basically on how to communicate and de-escalate with someone who’s dealing with post-traumatic stress and how to come alongside them and support them instead of confronting them. In military culture we’re trained to attack, we’re trained to confront, we’re trained to be aggressive.”
The summit is sponsored by the Oregon National Guard, Veterans Administration and Army OneSource.
Registration is required by Aug. 20 and registrants should call Jill Behunin, Oregon National Guard Family Assistance specialist, at 503-798-6501 or
email at Jilletta.d.