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Troops are coming home from war each day – not redeploying as they have over the last twelve years – but trying to find new ways of reintegrating with what was once familiar. Families, friends, workplace, faith communities – you name it. None of it will ever be the same. They’ve seen too much…felt too much…experienced the wounds of war spiritually, emotionally, physically.

Many Americans who disagree with war itself also turn a blind eye to veterans – personifying war with these men and women who joined the military to better themselves, their families and honor their country. Where has that blind eye gotten us? Today, thousands of veterans are living on America’s streets – many addicted to drugs or alcohol. Others may be keeping “their chin up” – doing everything they feel is right – but suffering a darkness that is unimaginable to those of us who’ve never experienced war. Others still quietly suffer, sometimes ending their lives to quiet the pain that feels irreparable.

You may have heard the parable of the river.

“Once upon a time there was a small village on the edge of a river…One day a villager noticed a baby floating down the river. The villager quickly swam out to save the baby from drowning. The next day this same villager noticed two babies in the river. He called for help, and both babies were rescued from the swift waters. And the following day four babies were seen caught in the turbulent current. And then eight, then more, and still more! One day, someone raised the question, “But where are all these babies coming from? Let’s head upstream and find out who’s throwing all of these babies into the river in the first place!”

The complexity of war demands a comprehensive response. We don’t have the luxury of choosing only one approach to heal the wounds of war and prevent it from happening again. We must care for those who return home, even as we work towards new means of conflict resolution that help humanity rise above violence that only begets more violence.

America’s Sunday Supper is an event that’s happening once again this January in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service (January 21, 2013). King gave his life to matters of justice like those we face today and fought against the military industrial complex. What he said in the 1960s resonates today:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

After increasing the national deficit by spending trillions of dollars on war, many are now calling for “entitlement” cuts as a means of fiscal responsibility. Yet, if the opportunity presented itself, these same people would also rally for new wars against nations they hate. So, it’s not really about the money. It’s about priorities.

How can we work towards new priorities as a nation? How can we honor those who’ve given – in many cases, the best part of their lives – even as we fight the systems that promote war?

We’ve often romanticized war as a solution because we don’t bother learning about its damage to individuals and to nations. America’s Sunday Supper can be an opportunity to raise awareness, promote dialog, and participate in service.  Watch a movie together, dialogue, do something. For more information, go to www.sundaysupperumc.org.

Operation Homecoming is a movie that you can screen without charge in your church or community setting. Note: language, violence.

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