During past conflicts, military personal headed off to war, often for prolonged deployments, but returned to their homes and loved ones and began moving forward into their post-war lives. But during the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for more than a decade, the process of healing and recovery has been interrupted again and again. In many cases, coming home means adjusting to being home while preparing to head back to war.
We needed new approaches to the process of coming home. This was particularly true for our National Guard and Reserve service members, who have in many cases borne inordinately challenging burdens of adjustment and readjustment. We also needed a new concept of home. We still needed a home where you are safe, appreciated, acknowledged, encouraged, nourished, challenged, a place where you are loved, where you can recover, heal and grow. But we also needed a home that is more boundless, resilient, inclusive, and as capable of letting go as of holding on. We needed a more fluid and open home, a home that is not only a refuge from war, but a home that understands, supports and prepares the veteran who may be heading back to war. Such a home had to be bigger, more open, more inclusive, and more resilient than the post-war refuge of the past.
Here in the Northwest we have been fortunate to have been led by a man who understands and lives and breathes that new notion of home, a man who helped to provide such a home for our veterans, their families, and our communities right here in Washington State.
Tom Schumacher knows military service and deployment, himself an Air Force veteran, 1966-1970, with South East Asia service. His connection with our Vietnam War veterans and his understanding of their painful experiences of returning from war and searching for home in a Nation that in many cases failed to provide that home for them, has clearly been the fuel and the reactor chamber that has powered Tom’s work. His devotion to his comrades-in-arms, and his sense of what is right, has been the compass that has guided Tom’s work. His heartfelt connection with Vietnam War veterans and with combat veterans of subsequent conflicts has been the soul of Tom’s work. His connection with veterans’ families, non-veteran colleagues, and community members has helped to create the very depth and breadth of home which the current conflicts have called for.
Steve Hunt, M.D., M.P.H.
Abridged from The Repetition & Avoidance Quarterly, Fall, 2012: p. 6