Chaplains from the Milwaukee VA Medical Center hosted a Clergy and Community Symposium at the War Memorial Center in Milwaukee to engage church leaders and community groups in responding to the needs of veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The event focused on the sharing of resources and building connections between the community, churches, and veterans. Giving back to our veterans who sacrificed for our country, presenters at the symposium emphasized the importance of helping our nation’s heroes and building relationships with them. With about 50 organizations participating in the event, they focused on sharing resources specific to the needs of veterans.
Addressing the need for mental health services, the Rural Community Training Program has helped to resolve the problem facing VA services in rural areas that lack licensed psychologists by training local pastors and church leaders to provide such help. The program connects veterans to church leaders who are trained in “moral injury, mental health, suicide prevention and community partnerships.” According to Kimberly Willis from the National VA Chaplain Service, “the program has been credited with saving the lives of more than 1,000 veterans who had either contemplated or attempted suicide” since its inception in 2010.
While the Milwaukee VA shared the services they provide, particularly “mental health services and programs geared to post-9/11 veterans,” and how veterans can find out their eligibility for such services and how to enroll, they also welcomed learning about other resources in the community that could be useful for veterans. With the outpouring of community support, the VA now has a larger database of resources to use when addressing the needs of veterans.
Robert Allen, the head of chaplain services at the Milwaukee VA shared that he hopes the symposium will become an annual event “with the goal of continuing to break down walls and share resources.” He added that the event was successful as it brought these communities together in support of one another as they shared resources building strong rapport and healthy relationships. Building a strong support system for our nation’s heroes is essential as it allows them to rebuild their lives surrounded by compassionate and appreciative people.