USA (MNN) — In the U.S., Veterans Day was declared an official holiday back in 1919.
Veterans Day was originally intended as a day of reflection on the sacrifices made by those who served in World War I.
Approximately four million U.S. men were drafted into the armed services, and roughly half ended up serving overseas.
Since 1919, U.S. servicemen and women have been honored in 96 consecutive Veterans Day observances.
U.S. involvement in at least 11 global conflicts following WWI has left its marks–physically, and more often, emotionally–on those who’ve served.
The wounds of war aren’t always obvious until it’s too late.
“The big statistic is: 22 veteran suicides per day, from the trauma of war,” shares Warriors Set Free (WSF) founder, Steve Prince. WSF is a branch of Set Free Ministries.
“[There are] 1000 new cases of PTSD a week, so 52,000 a year.”
The walking wounded
A 2008 survey conducted by the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research assessed the mental health of veterans who were deployed to the Middle East between 2001 and 2008.
Approximately one-third of those surveyed had symptoms of major depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or a TBI (traumatic brain injury).
“Unlike physical wounds, these conditions affect mood, thoughts, and behavior and often remain invisible to other service members, family and society,” the report’s summary reads.
When applied to all the veterans who were deployed in that time frame, the survey’s findings translate to 300,000 individuals carrying “invisible” wounds.
“These guys are being tormented; they can’t sleep,” adds Prince. He began WSF in 2014 to start changing these statistics.
“With 25+ years of service, and a heart for helping my brothers and sisters who are veterans, it fit,” Prince says.
Healing minds, renewing hope
WSF journeys with veterans through a healing process similar to that described by Dr. Neil T. Anderson in his book, The Steps to Freedom in Christ.
“It’s vet-to-vet ministry, but the powerful part of it is there’s action connected to everything we do,” explains Prince.
Veterans volunteering with WSF walk other vets through their deepest, darkest valleys.
“It’s an all-day process that really gets to core issues in people’s lives that they carry around.”
Forgiveness remains one of the most difficult steps for veterans, Prince says. And yet, it can also be one of the most rewarding.
“We have people list who they’re mad at, what they did, and how it made them feel. Then, we go through kind of a ‘stock prayer,’ where you insert those terms in, and they actually forgive someone,” Prince says, describing the process.
“Almost everyone walks out of there saying, ‘I feel so much lighter.’ Well, they’re not carrying a lot of the pain of the past that they’re not supposed to carry.”
Take “Gary,” for example.
Following a “Freedom Appointment” with Prince, “His nightmares were gone; his PTSD nightmares were gone.
“He’s ‘in the fight’ now; he’s going to help us reach more veterans.”