Healing the Wounds of War
The man said to Eli, “I have just come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” He said, “How did it go, my son?” – 1 Samuel 4:16 (NRSV)
At the height of the U.S. war in Iraq, I interviewed the head chaplain at what was then the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the hospital for soldiers who had sustained the most severe, life-altering injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A former anti-war journalist turned would-be peacemaking seminarian, I wanted to understand how to serve people whose bodies, minds, and lives had been shattered by war.
The hospital itself was a battlefield, a place where individuals, families, medical staff, and chaplains struggled valiantly to overcome what war had wrought. I saw a young man holding his head in one hand while the other rested on the bandaged stump where the rest of his left leg should have been. Marines cruised the halls in wheelchairs. A young man learned to attach his arm prosthesis. A baby-faced double amputee was wheeled out of the huge physical therapy complex by his mother.
Everything I learned only deepened my opposition to war, but I had not expected to encounter the servant Christ in an Army uniform or to see the suffering Christ in wounded soldiers. I had not expected to experience that heartbreaking place as holy ground or to be convinced that our hopes for peace rest in part on our commitment to healing the wounds of war.
As a 95-year-old church member who at 19 helped liberate the Dora-Mittlebau concentration camp regularly reminds me, we have much work to do.
Prince of Peace: Even as we care for the wounds of war, let us resolve to create no more of them.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.