Ministry Helps Veterans Deal with Demons of War: Vets Serve Other Vets Suffering from Posttraumatic Stress

By Lasota, Lynanne | National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Ministry Helps Veterans Deal with Demons of War: Vets Serve Other Vets Suffering from Posttraumatic Stress


Lasota, Lynanne, National Catholic Reporter


In 1999 Vietnam veteran Michael Brewer attended a "base camp" in the Arizona desert, an outing sponsored by Point Man International Ministries, a multi-denominational Christian organization that serves war veterans. In 1968, a year after arriving in Vietnam, Brewer had become 100 percent disabled from complications of Agent Orange, a head injury and posttraumatic stress disorder. "PTSD meets altar boy," said Brewer. "They did battle for my soul for nigh on to 30 years."

At the base camp, led by Don Weaver, an 82-year-old World War II former prisoner of war, veterans sat around a campfire talking about how the first recorded episode of posttraumatic stress disorder occurred thousands of years ago--the story of Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel, and when asked by God what happened, Cain denied the event by asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

"Cain disconnected himself from God, became angry and wandered around aimlessly," said Brewer. "The same signs we see today of veterans with PTSD."

Brewer recognized a need for a Point Man outpost in Tucson with the ability to minister to the large Catholic population. The Tucson outpost of the organization opened in early 2000.

"It's exactly what my grandfather did after World War I," Brewer said. "We're a modern day version of Catholic War Veterans"--an organization that helped veterans coming home from World War I and World War II.

Brewer meets with 12 clients individually to talk and pray together. He focuses on the Point Man philosophy of acceptance, understanding, recognition and fellowship. "Demons of war are nothing but idols," he said. "Killing is not something that vanishes--ever. You must deal with it."

Brewer said he believes God called him to be an outpost leader. He wasn't going to allow his disability to stop him; instead he would use his energy as an advocate for veterans.

When he returned from the war at age 21, he became an active member of the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Today, he wants to start a program at the center for men and women returning from war and for their families. With veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, Brewer sees a greater need for counseling. He also sees a need for assistance to college students whose parents may be Vietnam veterans.

As outpost leaders guide a veteran through spiritual healing, they provide a network of helping agencies and contacts with referrals for physical needs. Needs include medical resources, legal resources, emergency rood and clothing. "Each outpost is autonomous, providing a contact list within their geographical area," said Dana Morgan, president of Point Man International Ministries.

The mental and physical resources come with a gift of Christ's love through the spiritual support and help shown in everything the outpost leader does. …

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