The Rev. Tim Fuller knows full well the needs of returning military veterans and their families.
Fuller, a Roman Catholic priest, said he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977 to 1991 and has served as a wing chaplain for Air National Guard 137 for several years.
The pastor of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Midwest City just returned from a six-month deployment in Landstuhl, Germany.
The priest is part of a new Archdiocese of Oklahoma initiative that seeks to aid members of the military and their families.
“We've got all kinds of resources to help returning vets, but we can always use more, especially in outlying areas,” Fuller said.
“Sometimes with our vets, they don't want to reach out for anything, so the challenge for parishes is to be welcoming and making people aware of this.”
As part of the initiative, which kicked off in April, archdiocesan parishes received informational packets designed for Memorial Day weekend and beyond.
Mary Diane Steltenkamp, who is coordinating the program through Catholic Charities, said the packets also were distributed in recognition of May as Military Appreciation Month. She said the material sent out this week encourage parishes to come alongside military members as they rejoin their families and the community at large.
Steltenkamp said the archdiocese's initiative brings parishes together with Army OneSource to try to connect congregations with military members in need of assistance. Steltenkamp said the archdiocese held a one-day seminar in April to discuss the issue with priests such as Fuller and other parish leaders.
Steltenkamp said the packets were sent out because Memorial Day weekend seemed to be a great time to touch base with parishes again.
She said each packet includes a Memorial Day prayer that can be said at Mass, along with other helpful information.
Support for ‘silent' sufferers
Paula McBride, community support coordinator with Oklahoma and Arkansas Army OneSource, said the aid and support from the faith community is vital. She said Army OneSource is a U.S. Secretary of the Army initiative designed to provide comprehensive community support and service for soldiers and their families.
She said many returning soldiers come back with physical injuries, but there are other injuries — “silent injuries” — that often manifest themselves in changes in behavior that can include substance abuse, self-destructive or violent behavior, social withdrawal, unexplained anger and an inability to maintain close relationships.