Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Perhaps you’ve seen the many charities whose sole mission is to support the thousands of US soldiers who suffer from PTSD
following time spent on the battle field? Even the strongest can’t help but be impacted by war, death, and violence when they honorably complete their time in the military and return to civilian life.

While a direct comparison to The Salvation Army Officer who finds himself leaving officership falls short, the principles of caring for the soldier who is wounded following honorable service has application.

Certainly every experience is different, and during our 21 years of officership we were exposed to many challenging situations that may not be unique.

Death was always knocking on the door of the Corps building…the elderly soldier, the still born baby, the un-churched Advisory Board member, the gang-banger…yes, The Salvation Army Officer gets the call in the middle of the night to bring hope and a sense of God’s presence even in death…but he pays a heavy price.

Abuse was always lurking around the Corps building…the prostitute with the black eye from her pimp, the drug addict willing to sell his most precious asset for the next high, the Junior Soldier who sleeps on a floor crawling with roaches, the Sunbeam whose father was arrested for sexually abusing her…yes, The Salvation Army Officer stands on the frontline armed with grace and the love of Jesus…but she pays a heavy price.

Long hours and throngs of the hurting were always hanging around the Corps building…raising the money, visiting the sick, ministering to the community, believing that God will take care of your family while you take care of the masses, milestones missed, opportunities lost, resentment birthed…and the Officer pays a heavy price.

So, whose responsibility is it to care for the Officer when he finds it time to leave…the Army (whatever that is) Army Leadership, Comrade Officers, himself…Yes! Every Officer when confronted with the difficult life-altering decision to leave deserves compassion and an organizational desire for that person to succeed and be whole as they transition into civilian life.

For many officership has been their entire life. Certainly many organizations benefit from this kind of allegiance and the Salvation Army is no exception. This same allegiance can make it difficult for the Officer who is preparing to or has already left. Because so much of who they are is intertwined with the Army…identity, worth, friends, support, employment, livelihood, etc., most if not all will need some level of spiritual, financial, and emotional support to make a smooth and healthy transition.

An attempt by many territories to provide this support has been made, and to some extent has been successful. However, when the focus is on the Officer’s need to be healthy and not retention, this will provide the best opportunity for a positive transition.

Because of the disparity between Divisional leaders and their personal feeling toward or interpretation of policy, specifically in regard to Officer resignation, it is best that the Personnel Department, in consultation with the TC intervene and handle all persons transitioning out of The Salvation Army. This kind of compassionate consistency will significantly reduce the number of “wounded soldiers” who find` themselves alone and believing they have been abandoned.

I have seen incredible advancement in the way The Salvation Army in the US provides financial resources that allow opportunity for a fresh start. While some might argue that more can be done, I believe it is on the front end that reform must take place. While implementation may seem difficult every effort should be made to provide more financial independence and personal responsibility throughout Officership. When handled properly this should create less institutional dependence if and when an Officer leaves.

Previous Article; Letting Go…When To Say Good-by

Next Article: Moving On…I’m Going To Be OK

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Admittedly it was a long time ago, but I had an absolutely dreadful leaving interview with a national "personnel" officer though that wasn't what they called them then. I was addressed by the wrong rank throughout (although I was in uniform), told I was a useless officer and it was a kindness of the SA to employ me because nobody else would (was employed within days and consistently till retirement admittedly with only 1 employer - but whenever I started looking around they offered me internal promotion), told I had no qualifications (I worked in a "profession" before training college), told I'd lost the SA all my 2nd officers (I was always stationed alone), told all my Corps had suffered (praise God, they all grew!) In fact, I did wonder if he had the wrong person's folder in front of him as he was seeing a fair number of leavers that day but I was in no fit state to ask. Are you really sure it should be done by national leaders who won't know you? Excuse rant but it still rankles 30 years later.