VetConnect International provides ministry to members of the US armed forces and their families as service members reintegrate to life in the US upon their return from deployment. It makes no difference whether Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, or Guardians served in the active or reserve components; it makes no difference where they served; and it makes little difference whether their tours were strictly routine or anything but – the stressors and challenges reintegrating service members and families must contend with are similar. They may also be too much for any one member or household to manage effectively alone. That’s where VetConnect comes in, helping service members connect with each other and form positive, supportive communities even in locations distant from military or Veterans Administration installations.
The VetConnect program is a faith-based, 13-week curriculum offered to veterans and hosted in local churches, synagogues, and other faith community centers. Local church leaders are trained by VetConnect International to facilitate the curriculum. Like DivorceCare ™ and GriefShare™ before it, each session of VetConnect consists of a professionally produced video in which one or more experts address a reintegration issue. The video is followed by guided discussion and “homework” assignments. The first VetConnect “class” in a community is offered a chance to train so they can serve other veterans, but will inevitably wind up dealing with some of their own issues in the process.
VetConnect facilitators are provided with 24/7/365 access to licensed mental health professionals who can provide referrals for treatment of complex and acute distress beyond the facilitators’ expertise.
The beauty of the decentralized VetConnect model is that it can be implemented effectively in almost any setting, from urban areas and suburbs to small towns and rural areas. One demographic study of service members showed that almost two thirds came from small communities with limited services – except for those provided by faith communities. Many of which are eager to know how they can better serve the military and veteran populations within and around them.
Past, present, and prospective partners include Give-An-Hour, Stephen Ministries, Cornerstone of Recovery, the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, the National Association of Christian Social Workers, the American Association of Christian Counselors, and Equipping Ministries International.