Tag archives: Military

Faith-Based Solutions Are Vital to Preventing Veteran Suicide

by Cassidy Rich

May 14, 2019

By the end of every day, an average of 20 U.S. military veterans will have committed suicide. This number is staggering, especially when you consider the fact that less than 1 percent of the U.S. adult population are currently serving in the military. What happened?

Ask Richard Glickstein and he’ll tell you that there are several reasons. Glickstein, the former president of the National Bible Association and current military/veteran advocate on Capitol Hill, says that faith-based solutions are “devoid” in the military because the focus for the last several decades has been on the mind, not the spirit. Another reason why veteran suicide has escalated, Glickstein points out, is because some of the medications that veterans are given to help them are actually hurting them and can make the thoughts of suicide worse.

In a Speaker Series event at FRC headquarters last week, Glickstein quoted George Washington in a letter written to the Virginia Governor in 1758: “Common decency, Sir, in a camp calls for the services of a Divine; and which ought not to be dispensed with, altho’ the world should be so uncharitable as to think us void of Religion, & incapable of good Instructions.” Washington knew that religion played a vital role in the health and well-being of soldiers. He knew that spirituality needed to be the focus for both mental and bodily health. “This is why he instituted the chaplaincy at Valley Forge,” Glickstein stated.

So what do faith-based solutions have to do with veteran suicide? Glickstein pointed out that based on 140 years of evidence, “The disciplined practice of religion increases resiliency, reduces suicide, and helps to speed the resolution of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. PTSD and suicide ideations are conditions of the spirit/soul. Only therapy to this core of a person will affect change.”

These are some of the findings of Dr. Harold G. Koenig, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University, who gathered and analyzed 140 years of scientific evidence on mental health and found that people who prayed often and regularly attended religious services were far less likely to have mental health issues. This is vital information because science shows that once a male civilian enters the military, he is 30-50 percent more likely to commit suicide. For women who enter the military, their chance of mental health disorders and risk of suicide increases 200-500 percent.

Why are the percentages so high, especially for women? Glickstein says that major contributing factors are isolation and reverse culture shock. When our soldiers come back from war, most of them don’t have a common community of fellow veterans. They feel isolated and feel like they can’t talk to anybody about what they experienced because their civilian friends and family won’t understand. The other aspect is reverse culture shock—veterans often have an incredibly difficult time reentering into “normal life” because they are different. Their experiences changed them and now they are struggling to jump back into a life that no longer exists because they have changed.

What can we learn from this? Glickstein said, “Suicide doesn’t differentiate between a Democrat and Republican. Veteran and military suicide, they’re Democrats, they’re Republicans. This isn’t an ideological issue. This is a crisis.” What veterans need are Americans who are willing and want to hear their stories, more connection and community with fellow veterans, and accountability in faith and religious circles. New faith-based programs like Soul Survivor Outdoor and the Trump administration’s new high-level task force on preventing veteran suicide are huge steps in the right direction.

Annual Defense Authorization Bill Passes the House with Religious Liberty Provision

by Leanna Baumer

May 22, 2014

Despite two years of Congressional efforts to affirm a service member’s freedom to practice and express their faith in the military, confusion over the scope of that freedom persists, particularly in the Air Force. Noting that confusion’s detrimental effect on troop morale, Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) introduced an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act which calls upon the Department of Defense and the Air Force to issue clearer regulations regarding religious expression. Last night, the House unanimously approved that amendment and today the House passed the overall Defense authorization bill (H.R. 4435) by a bipartisan vote of 325 to 98.

Policy vagueness on something as fundamental as an Airman’s ability to exercise his First Amendment rights ultimately restricts rights and hurts service members. That’s a reality Congressman Lamborn has witnessed firsthand in his own Congressional District at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Earlier this spring, national headlines drew attention to the fact that the simple posting of a Bible verse on a personal white board was deemed offensive enough to start an Academy investigation and prompt command pressure to remove the quote. Such a harsh response to a minor and non-confrontational reference to one’s personal beliefs reveals the topsy-turvy approach towards religious expression in the Air Force at present. Whereas most reasonable people expect to encounter opinions in life with which they don’t agree, the country’s elite future war fighters are being schooled to think that a potential personal objection to another’s opinions are justifiable grounds for viewpoint censorship.

Of course, cultivating true leadership traits means cultivating the ability to listen to those with whom you may not agree — a skill undermined when future officers are instructed repeatedly to claim offense at another individual’s exercise of their freedom of religion. Indeed, several scholars with the U.S. Army War College recently drew attention to this point, noting that even the mere perception of hostility towards faith in the military has a detrimental impact on morale and the cultivation of virtue in the ranks.

Congressman Lamborn’s amendment recognizes that current policy needs to be revised in order to better reflect the law, provide clarity to commanders, and furnish certainty for men and women of faith in our military. Though the Air Force has indicated in recent weeks that it may review its policies, House passage of H.R. 4435 today ensures that they take that mandate seriously.

Sight of a Bible Too Controversial for Airmen to Stomach?

by Leanna Baumer

March 31, 2014

The mere sight of a Bible in a public place prompts “controversy and division,” according to commanders at Patrick Air Force Base. To avoid any such upheaval, officials for the 45th Space Wing recently decided to remove a private organization’s memorial display containing a Bible and intended to honor missing soldiers and prisoners of war (a “Missing Man Table”) from a base dining hall.

Of particular irony is the fact that this reversal of a long history of including such memorials in dining halls occurred at the same installation where the Department of Defense’s equal opportunity agency — the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute — is housed. DEOMI is tasked with training military Equal Opportunity (EO) advisers on how to instill respect and tolerance for diverse viewpoints in service members. Apparently, that respect and tolerance isn’t supposed to extend to religious speech or the ability of an organization to recognize the role religious faith has played in the lives of many service members.

That position not only contradicts Supreme Court precedent that condemns the restriction of speech solely because of its message, it also does a disservice to our ability to remember the stories of American war heroes. One such service member is former Alabama Senator and Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton, Jr., a Naval aviator who spent seven years in captivity in Vietnam and who spoke frequently of the role a deep Catholic faith played in carrying him through unspeakable prison camp horrors.

The American public best knows Rear Adm. Denton as the Vietnam captive who blinked T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code, successfully communicating with American intelligence officers regarding camp practices, when forced by his captors to appear on television in 1966. Rear Adm. Denton died just three days ago, a respected veteran and public servant who had inspired many fellow captives to return “home with honor.” Faith played a part in his story, and the story of many other captives. Requiring organizations and individuals to ignore that reality not only violates legal precedent, it hollows out the heritage of many of our war heroes.

Moral Virtue and the Military

by Leanna Baumer

February 19, 2014

Amidst renewed plans from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take up legislation this spring addressing sexual assault in the military, a collection of ethical scandals involving military leadership continues to dog Pentagon officials.

Though the U.S. military still ranks as one of the most respected institutions in public life (and rightly so), the reputation of top brass has taken a beating with news of a Navy bribery scam, drinking binges during high profile missions, and incidents of serial adultery. Problems at one Air Force base extend to the junior officer level as over ninety officers responsible for operating our nuclear missile force have been caught cheating on monthly proficiency exams. In South Carolina, sailors tasked with operating Navy nuclear reactors appear to have shared exam questions and so far at least thirty sailors have been decertified as a result.

Given these troubling stories of lapses in integrity, numerous new oversight plans have emerged. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a full review of the ethical training senior officers receive, with the report due last Friday. The Secretary of the Air Force has spoken of the need to address “systemic problems,” and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that assessing character will be a larger part of the evaluation of military officers in the future.

With the pivot to introspection however, it’s important for Pentagon officials to consider how moral virtue in the Armed Forces is cultivated in the first place.

That human failings have surfaced in the military isn’t in itself news. After all, the military is made up of individuals who are influenced by and reflect the social mores of our culture. Look at any aspect of American society, and you will quickly find examples of cheating, moral failure, and personal irresponsibility. Honesty, sobriety, and sexual propriety are not often glorified in our culture at large. Instead, our culture lauds self-expression and immediate self-gratification.

In a self-focused culture, how can we shape an environment that demands honesty, fidelity, and honor, all characteristics demanding self-denial? In other words, how is an expectation of ethical and moral behavior to be cultivated and maintained?

Traditionally, religious beliefs have been helpful in forming an ethic that values others over self, upholds integrity, and demands personal piety. Religion generally involves the humbling of self in light of a Divine Being, a realization of answering to a higher authority. Such beliefs tend to inspire an individual to please a higher power in interactions with fellow men. (Of course, religious individuals as fallible human beings can be guilty of violating ethical codes too, sometimes egregiously so in light of their claiming to have a high standard to which they have failed to adhere.)

Unfortunately, religious expression within the military has grown more difficult following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in part because of the taboo surrounding the expression of politically incorrect opinions on sexuality. In an effort to be accommodating to homosexual service members, religious opinions about the proper boundaries of sexual behavior have been constrained.

Yet religion strongly condemns infidelity, lying, and drunkenness — all problems highlighted in the latest military scandals. Moreover, the dominant religion practiced in the United States, Christianity, upholds the ideal of chastity, a demand for purity and restraint in sexual conduct.

Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that multiple rounds of deployment demanded by the pressures of war in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years have caused a focus on character to fall behind a focus on competence. That failure also meant “we were neglecting the tools that manage us as a profession over time.”

Since we know that one of those tools for cultivating morality for many people has been religious faith, are we encouraging the “systemic problem” in our services by ostracizing the expression of moral beliefs rooted in religious faith? It’s a question worth asking as DOD leaders search for the tools to reinforce moral integrity in our military.

Video: Senior Master Sgt. Philip Monk Discusses Military Religious Freedom Incident

by FRC Media Office

December 20, 2013

Master Sgt. Phillip Monk shares his story about how he was relieved of his duties when he refused to agree with his openly lesbian commanding officer that a subordinate’s expression of opposition to same-sex marriage constituted “discrimination.”   His punishment was intended to have a chilling effect on service members throughout the military.  This case among many other similar incidents prompted Congress to overwhelmingly vote to strengthen conscience and religious freedom protections for our men and women in uniform. Passage of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Armed Forces to accommodate a service member’s ability to practice and express their religious beliefs and to issue regulations formalizing those safeguards.   For more information go to militaryfreedom.org.  Thank you for standing up for #militaryfreedom.  Please share this video with your friends and family!

A Contract Job Worth Keeping

by Leanna Baumer

October 17, 2013

After a mad scramble to pass legislation resolving the government shut down and extending a cap on federal borrowing authority, the House quickly agreed to one additional resolution late last night. In a nod to a lingering shutdown-related question pertaining to the role certain contract ministers and religious services employees play in our military, the House agreed unanimously to an amended version of H. Con. Res.58. This concurrent resolution expresses the hope of Congress that the Department of Defense (DOD) will categorize contracted priests and religious services providers as necessary for maintaining troop welfare and morale during any lapse in federal funding.

Almost two weeks ago, news broke about believers, including many Catholics, within the military lacking access to traditional religious services, religious facilities, counseling, and the Sacraments. Though legislation enacted at the beginning of the shutdown saga (Pay Our Military Act, Public Law No: 113-39) had instructed the DOD to pay active duty military personnel and to ensure that all services necessary for troop support were made available, DOD did not designate contracted religious service providers as essential for those support services. Because many installations rely on contracted ministers to meet the Constitutional requirement of providing for the free exercise rights of troops, this lapse by DOD meant that some soldiers had no way to practice or adhere to the confessional obligations of their faith.

As others have pointed out, the DOD’s failure to recognize contracted religious personnel as important for troop welfare is troubling since it seems to ignore the role religion plays in the daily life of many soldiers— while elevating access to base leisure facilities and entertainment options as more significant for aiding troop morale.  In the high pressure environment of the military where unique stresses and challenges are faced on a daily basis, it’s critical that military personnel have access to the unique support structures of their faith. In fact, courts have held that in order to protect the First Amendment rights of military personnel to exercise their religion, chaplains must be furnished by the military. In cases where an active duty chaplain is not available, contracted religious staff help meet this obligation.

While last night’s reinstatement of federal funding has resolved the immediate issue of access to military installations for contract employees, a legal inquiry into the DOD’s designation may continue. What should guide lawmakers and Defense officials moving forward is a renewed commitment to protecting the totality of troop welfare and wellbeing—including safeguarding the ability of military personnel to live out their personal religious belief and practice by having continuous access to ministers, priests, and religious staff. 

Todd Starnes Appears on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins”

by Bethany Brock

October 8, 2013

Todd Starnes from Fox News on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins: We’ve come to a point in America where we have to take a collection for bail for our military ministers.

Todd Starnes, a Fox News reporter and a speaker at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, appeared on Monday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” and described an event this weekend where nearly 50 government contracted military chaplains who were furloughed due to the government shutdown were banned from performing Mass on military bases:

I received word from many of my readers.  They confirmed that weekend Mass on their base had in fact been canceled. There were no services. Many have had to go off base to go to church this weekend,” Starnes said.

One of Starnes’s readers told him that at Langley Air Force Base, a priest was told that if he came on base and held Mass, he and his supervisor could be punished and they both could face the possibility of getting fired. 

One of my readers emailed me.  He was on a military base where they did have a Catholic priest (who was not contracted by the government) and they talked about taking up a collection to cover bail for any priest who defied the government and went ahead and celebrated Mass after all.  Now that, in my estimation, is the lowest of low. It’s come to a point in America where we have to take a collection to cover bail for ministers,” Starnes said.

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

Memo to Lackland Air Force Base: No “Air Force Policy” Requires Support for Homosexual “Marriage”

by Peter Sprigg

August 15, 2013

Yet another Bible-believing member of the Air Force has come forward with a report of negative treatment—in this case, merely because he defended another Service member who had expressed opposition to homosexual “marriage.”

Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk told Todd Starnes of Fox News Radio that his openly lesbian commander at Lackland Air Force Base inSan Antonio,Texas had essentially forced him into taking leave rather than completing his assignment. (A Lackland spokesman denied that Monk was punished, insisting to Starnes that he was simply at the end of his assignment.)

Monk was caught in the middle of a situation which involved an instructor who was subjected to an investigation for having told trainees that he opposed homosexual “marriage.” Investigators sought to determine whether the unnamed instructor had slandered homosexuals and created a “hostile work environment.”

Monk’s job was to advise the commander on disciplinary action. According to Monk, however, the commander said from the outset that “we need to lop off the head of this guy.” Monk concluded that the instructor’s remarks were innocuous, and suggested instead that the incident could teach everyone—on both sides of the debate over homosexuality—about “tolerance” and “diversity.”

In the end, the instructor was disciplined with a “letter of counseling” in his official file. The commander, however, demanded to know from Monk “if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don’t agree with homosexual marriage.” Monk refused to answer because, “As a matter of conscience I could not answer the question the way the commander wanted me to.” Instead, he “said that perhaps it would be best if he went on leave,” and the commander agreed.

Monk said to Starnes, “I’m told that members of the Air Force don’t have freedom of speech. They don’t have the right to say anything that goes against Air Force policy.” However, if the homosexual Air Force officer involved in this case thinks that “Air Force policy” requires rejecting the policy choice of three quarters of the States to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, she should think again.

In fact, she may need to be reminded of what the repeal of the 1993 law on homosexuality in the armed forces actually did and did not require. According to the 2010 report of the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) on repeal, repeal was intended to move the military from a negative position on homosexuality to an officially neutral one—but not to one in which sexual orientation would become a protected category.

In fact, the CRWG said explicitly that “we do not [emphasis in the original] recommend that the Department of Defense place sexual orientation alongside race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” with respect to diversity programs, tracking, or Equal Opportunity complaints.

On the other hand, the CRWG noted the fears of some Service members that repeal “might limit their individual freedom of expression and free exercise of religion, or require them to change their personal beliefs about the morality of homosexuality.” The Pentagon sought to assuage those fears by preserving “existing policies regarding individual expression and free exercise of religion,” noting explicitly, “Service members will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs.” (Note: the passages on “Moral and Religious Concerns” and on “Equal Opportunity” excerpted above can be found on pages 134-138 of the report.)

The 2010 Congressional vote repealing the 1993 was premised upon these assurances—even though FRCand other pro-family groups warned at the time that they could not be relied upon. We predicted that pro-homosexual activists would demand that only pro-homosexual viewpoints be allowed in the military, and those predictions are now coming true.

If Congress and the Obama administration are unwilling to return to the higher standard of sexual conduct that prevailed until repeal took effect in 2011, they should at least insist that military commanders live up to the promises that were made during the repeal debate of 2010—that “Service members shall be evaluated only on individual merit, fitness, and capability,” and not on their religious convictions.

Download the Family Research Council report, “A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.”

FRC in the News: January 25, 2013

by Nicole Hudgens

January 25, 2013

The Pro-Life March Continues

Jessica Prol, FRC’s Managing Editor for Policy Publications, wrote about the history and the dangers of legal abortion in an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Times. She celebrates life on the day of the famous March for Life today in Washington, D.C. and tells the story of a sweet baby girl, Naomi, who will prayerfully experience one of God’s greatest gifts—life.

Robert Morrison, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, wrote an op-ed that appeared in Human Events today about abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, and the future of the pro-life movement.

General Boykin in the NY Times and on Fox News Sunday

This Sunday, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (Ret.-USA), Executive Vice President at FRCwill be featured on Fox News Sunday and was recently quoted in the New York Times with his expertise concerning women in combat roles. Boykin, whose long career includes much time in the Special Forces Operations, made the statement that “the people making this decision are doing so as part of another social experiment.” Read Boykin’s response on the FRC website and op-ed that appeared in USA Today about women in frontline combat.

You Can Fight for the Country’s Freedom, But be Denied Your Own

FRC President Tony Perkins commented on a story done by Fox News Radio that explained how the Army ordered a cross and steeple to be taken off of a chapel in Afghanistan. Tony stated that “Under this Administration, the military has become a Christianity-free zone. As a veteran, there’s an irony here. You put on the uniform to defend freedom — chief among them is freedom of religion. And yet, you are stripped of your own freedom to practice your faith.”

Permission to disagree, Ma’am.

by Family Research Council

November 28, 2012

There’s been a buzz amidst DC’s commenting community about why we still should (or shouldn’t) care about General Petraeus’s now un-secret extracurricular activities with Mrs. Paula Broadwell. People with stronger opinions, more information, and bigger microphones have already discussed and dissected the matter.

Some writers call to greater responsibility and higher standards, others to greater flexibility and understanding. Some are a bit more nuanced, like the Walter Russell Mead’s blog post, “America’s Addled Puritanism.” My goal is not to parse the entire discussion, but to suggest that it is appropriate and at least slightly refreshing that our highest intelligence officers still be held accountable for a breach of trust and integrity in their personal relationships.

But West Point graduate-turned-comedian Laura Cannon seems to disagree. In last week’s Washington Post op-ed, “No sex? Permission to speak freely, Sir.” Ms. Cannon notes the following:

West Pointers are human beings, even those with names such as David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell. I think I have the standing to make this declaration, because I’m a fellow graduate. West Point is long on molding military officers, but a bit short on humanity. Its mission statement stresses the intent to commit every graduate to a career of professional excellence and service, embodying the values of “duty, honor and country.” How does West Point do that?

Here’s how: Rules! Hundreds upon hundreds of rules that govern every facet of human conduct imaginable, including my favorite: no sex in the barracks.

The problem, as Ms. Cannon sees it, is that David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell have been persecuted primarily for being human. Since leaving military service Ms. Cannon has, according to her website www.warvirgin.com, left her Jesus-addiction behind and stepped where no veteran has before, by offering “a candid, irreverent look at the comically naughty, sexually-charged underbelly of the military…”

As a proud sister of a U.S. military-service academy graduate, I concede that Ms. Cannon’s angst regarding military academy life is worth engaging. Over the years, my brother has (much more respectfully) shared stories of the ways that he and other cadets would attempt to stay afloat amidst a sea of rules—rules that often seem irrelevant or even counter-productive to the stated goal of building up the next generation of leaders. For a more intellectual discussion of modern military academies (and a rousing disagreement in the comments section), I recommend Professor Bruce Fleming’s article in The Chronicle Review, “The Few, the Proud, the Infantilized.”

But one thing Prof. Fleming and Ms. Cannon both recommend is to lift the no-sex-on-campus ban. Ms. Cannon does so with a comic and irreverent tone. Mr. Fleming does so in a more academic and detached manner, suggesting the academy should have ‘no opinion’ on matters of sexuality.

But would such a ban-repeal, as Ms. Cannon suggests, allow cadets to be “more human”? It does, of course, depend on what we mean by human. Is it truly human to pursue any sexual impulse, whenever one wishes, with whomever one wishes?

This, it would seem, is premise of sexual revolution. In The Atlantic‘s thorough and engaging essay on the topic, Hanna Rosin explores the following:

The hookup culture that has largely replaced dating on college campuses has been viewed, in many quarters, as socially corrosive and ultimately toxic to women, who seemingly have little choice but to participate. Actually, it is an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.

So where has all this gotten us? Ms. Rosin seems a bit more optimistic than I, about the empowering nature of sexual license… especially for young women. But logically, if indiscriminate, few-feelings-attached hookups are normal to the human (American) college experience, it would make sense to extend such license, even to military academies and combat zones.

But what if sexual license is not the definition of authentic humanity? Failed contraception, broken hearts, and lingering pang of the morning-after all whisper that authentic humanity is not finally found in sexual liberty. And the social science—illustrated in unforeseen pregnancies and grueling divorce proceedings—loudly suggests that sexual license hasn’t delivered.

So if General Petraeus or Ms. Cannon (or anyone else, for that matter) begins to find that pleasure isn’t keeping its promise, I suggest that they meet a famous warrior king who learned a very difficult version of the same lesson (the story can be found in 2 Sam 11-12). King David made a “human” decision by chasing the lovely, married Bathsheba. The king faced devastating consequences. But he also knew great restoration. I suggest that, in confession and restoration (Ps. 51), King David rediscovered what it meant to be “truly human.”

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