Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
There is a human debate that I believe has been going on for as long as humans and that is: can war be prevented and one day ended for all time, or is it an unfortunate part of the human condition like illness, old age, and death? I must confess I am on the ‘part of the human condition’ side. There seems to arise like an invisible tide an aggressive ruler that the good and just must confront. Naturally, war is not as elegant or clear as good versus evil. However, it is a short-handed way to illustrate my perspective that war, as tragic as it is, is part of the human condition and not a disease that can one day be cured. With this perspective on war, an incredible amount of love, respect, and gratitude arises in my heart for the soldier—as they do what many cannot—but what must be done. Soldiers fight for us. If they did not, it would not stop war, rather, it would allow for tyranny and sometimes catastrophic cruelty as in the case of genocide to go on unchecked. And before anyone assumes I am a hawk, note that part of loving, respecting, and caring for the warrior is to exhaust every possibility to prevent or end conflict before we ask the warrior to step in and fight as human proxies for us (as we go on living our ordinary lives).
With that said, the warrior to me is the lotus flower. They are the beauty that grows out of the murky, muddy waters of humans clashing. The warrior does not declare war—yet they reveal an unbelievably stunning amount of bravery and dedication to fight when called. So, while war reveals the dark side of the human condition, the solider reveals the light of nobility possible in man.
Thank you, dearest warrior!
There is another light that the tragedy of war reveals, and that is the men and women who dedicate themselves to serving the warrior after the battle. Our soldiers sometimes face complex physical, emotional, and financial challenges when they return home. Sadly, any one of these challenges can put a veteran at risk for homelessness. Luckily, like the soldier fighting for us, there are men and women who work very hard to support our most vulnerable veterans. There are human hearts that cannot stand and allow our veterans to be abandoned and forgotten.
It was an unbelievable privilege for me to be allowed a glimpse into a center dedicated to serving our veterans and to meet one of the lightworkers who has dedicated herself to supporting our most vulnerable veterans and helping them transition to productive, healthy lives. The New England Center and Home for Veterans was the place I visited, and Charlene Pontbriand was the very kind and gracious representative of the center I met and was able to chat with regarding their mission and their needs. Our very first exchange was telling about how caring and protective this center is towards its residents and soldier family. I at first referred to the center as the New England Center for Homeless Veterans (which was its previous name), and immediately she corrected me. It was now the New England Center and Home for Veterans. She then explained to me that their veterans were not ‘homeless;’ they had a home here at the center. It was very clear that the New England Center and Home for Veterans was a very special place ran by very special people.
The center serves veterans who are at risk for homelessness through various programs. They offer education through an on-site training center aimed at both career and life skill training like basic computer skills and personal finance. They offer a wide variety of support from emergency and intensive interventions to low-income family support and a great, community-based senior veteran day program. Additionally, they offer personal case management, so care is carefully monitored and best directed for each veteran. Ultimately, the goal for most of the veterans in their care is to help them transition to rewarding, independent living. The Boston facility (which was the one I visited) has 60 affordable apartments, a 24-bed female dorm, and over 185 transitional emergency beds. 250 veterans reside at NECHV each night, and they serve 100,000 meals each year. 450 veterans complete NECHV training, and 400 veterans find permanent homes through NECHV each year. (program and statistic information were taken from the NECHV website, nechv.org).
The center itself was recently renovated to better align itself with the idea that it is a home for veterans and not a homeless center. The residents were watching TV, chatting, and reading just like anyone at home. One can tell a lot while walking around a place, and I always felt happy and at ease. The center did not feel like a ‘health facility’ rather more like a university center and residence hall with nice furniture, oriental carpets, a bright dining hall with plants and flowers, and cool music playing. With one very big exception.
In the dining hall was a special table front and center, in front of the television. It was the table reserved for the POW/ MIA soldier. It was mind-blowingly moving. I felt an odd embarrassment, as I was both trying not to cry and feeling very small, as sitting right behind the special, devotional table were a scattering of veterans watching T.V. with one gentleman wearing his uniform cap with various honors. Seeing the table was like a great anvil of the real coming down—and the fun and play of seeing a place and learning about a noble mission—changed dramatically. My tour guide was very kind, warm, and intelligent. The center was really beautiful and nice inside. However, war is real. It is tragic and deadly. Real men and women have fought and seen sights we never will, and there are many burdens of loss that our veterans carry with them miles away from the battlefield. I know my tour guide knew this, and while she did smile and was warm—I also saw the dedication and worry in her eyes as without the help of society in general, the mission of helping these veterans was at risk. Standing between veterans, the POW/ MIA table, and the woman dedicated to helping the soldiers rejoin the world, it became very clear that while war is hell, there is light that arises too. By supporting and caring for our veterans and for the men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our soldiers after the battle, we become part of the light.
Thank you to the saints that support our veterans!
Donate Now! Linked is the New England Center and Home for Veterans’ donation page. Below are some photos I took at the center—you can see they have built a warm and dignified place for the veterans.
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.