FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - A Vietnam War veteran from Frederick is hoping that Native American-inspired rituals will help other vets heal from the effects of post-traumatic stress.
Milt Crutchley, who served with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, heard about the Warriors’ Journey Home Ministry while on a trip to Ohio. The Rev. Dr. John Schluep, an Army veteran, started the ministry there in 2008.
The ministry offers group meetings - called healing circles - in which veterans and others coping with post-traumatic stress listen to their peers, speak about their own experiences and begin to form healing relationships.
Crutchley attended Schluep’s workshop to learn how to run a healing circle, which is based on trust, truth and active listening.
“It’s sort of like a tribal council,” Crutchley said.
The oldest attendees are seated first, he said, then combat veterans, then other veterans, then family members or others who wish to contribute or listen.
In the center of the circle stands an altar, where a burning candle signifies an open fire. The attendees are permitted to speak only when holding the “talking stick,” he said, which is returned to the center after each speaker.
The circle is sanctified by a smoldering piece of white sage, placed in an abalone shell.
“You fan the smoke on everything to dispel negative energy, and it creates a sacred space,” he said.
When Crutchley first learned about this process, he said it struck a chord with him. He is a combat veteran who was on board Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War.
“I know all too well what these invisible wounds can do to people,” he said.
After learning the ways of the Warriors’ Journey Home, Crutchley asked his pastor at the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick if he could start a ministry there. The pastor, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel, agreed.
“I think there’s a lot of groups out there supporting (veterans), but I think what makes this one different is it contributes a spiritual element that’s different from some support groups,” she said.
Many other organizations meet at the church, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and 12-step groups, but Crutchley’s will be the first meant to specifically help veterans.
“What makes it really special is that it emerged from someone in the congregation who identified the need,” Daniel said.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, https://www.fredericknewspost.com
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