Faith-based organizations learn about Missouri Guard’s Partners in Care
By Sarah E. Lupescu
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – More than 55 representatives from numerous religious organizations took part in a Partners in Care event at the Ike Skelton Training Site recently. Those in attendance had the opportunity to learn about the program and to sign a memorandum of understanding.
The Partners in Care concept is simple. Participating congregations extend support to warriors and their Families referred to programs they already offer - within the limits of the congregation's resources and abilities, free of charge, and without regard to the recipients' religious affiliation.
Being a Missouri National Guardsman means service members serve a dual mission. Guardsman can be activated to serve overseas and also for stateside missions such as state emergency duty during times of disaster.
“What we do during state emergency duty is go right to that law enforcement agency or that civil emergency manager and expand their capabilities,” said Col. Wendul G Hagler, the chief of staff of the Missouri National Guard. “We protect good people from bad things. And that’s why we want to join with you and why we have joined with you. We need your kind of spirit and manpower joining together to protect good people from bad things in times of any sort of disaster.
Military members face challenges on the front lines as well as at home.
“Internally, we have to protect good people from bad things and sometimes that means protecting people from themselves and their circumstances,” Hagler said. “We are not adequately sourced to accomplish that part of our mission. It’s not that there’s not enough money - it’s the time and distance that is a resource issue.”
Missouri Guardsmen live in all of Missouri’s 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. The active components within the state are in two places: Ft. Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base.
“On those installations, if you need some sort of assistance you can drive down the street and get what you need,” Hagler said. “If you are from Anderson and your resource is in Jefferson City, it becomes problematic, and that’s a resource issue. So what we’re asking for is some cooperation to help expand our resources and make it so that our guys can benefit from your services as much as possible.”
Service members can go through many different areas of change during their military career. They may experience different types of stress injuries such as trauma, conflict and loss. When a Missouri Guardsman experiences a stress injury, they become a Guardsman in need. They may need a type of help that faith-based communities can offer.
Other areas of stress that military members face are deployments and the impacts they have on marriages, combat stress situations, and suicide. The Missouri National Guard emphasizes resiliency among its ranks. Resiliency training can help a service member learn how to deal with the stress in their lives. Because most Guardsman are with their units two days out of the month and during their two week annual training, access to resiliency resources can become a challenge.
“Partners in Care means caring for our folks,” Gilmore said. “Together we can bring all our resources to care for our Soldiers in need.”
Samples of care that congregational ministries offer can include marriage counseling, child-care and sickness support, crisis and grief counseling, and age focus group support.
During the Partners in Care event, attendees had the opportunity to participate in some hands on training exercises for suicide prevention.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs gave an overview of Operation S.A.V.E. which focused on suicide prevention among military members and veterans. The acronym summarizes the steps needed to take an active and valuable role in suicide prevention. The steps include signs of suicidal thinking, ask questions, validate the person’s experience, and encourage treatment and expedite getting help.
Small groups were given scenarios and had to act out how to help a service member who may be thinking of suicide.
“I am overwhelmed by the desire of our faith-communities to support our Soldiers, Airmen, and their Families,” Gilmore said. “They do have strengths and they do want to share them.”
The Partners in Care event turned out to be a success, Gilmore concluded.
“In a quick summary, Missouri’s Partners in Care gained three new signed memorandums of understanding at the event, along with much discussion of next steps for many others,” Gilmore said. “Three opportunities have come my way to visit other groups and present Partners in Care to them.”
Before the Partners in Care event, 26 churches in Missouri had signed a memorandum of agreement since April 2011. Missouri’s goal is to have 50 churches and ten denominations sign the agreement, Gilmore said.
The memorandum of understanding is an agreement where Partners in Care, through their respective congregations, and the Missouri National Guard recognize a need for a coordinated effort to provide faith-based support to Missouri Guardsmen.
The Partners in Care initiative was sanctioned by Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, after being recognized by Missouri’s Gov. Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon as one of the best ways for faith-based communities to help citizen-Soldiers.
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