Name of Non-Profit Entity: Tau & Flame (Christian)
Name of Project: Discernment of Spirits Field Manual
Relevance of the Author: As a recently-discharged member of the U.S. armed forces, a Christian religious of the Secular Franciscan Order, and a lifelong writer, this author is uniquely qualified to provide the resource discussed below.
Military personnel often experience trials for extended periods of time which are simply unimaginable for most civilians, and very difficult for them to comprehend. Such experiences are also often very difficult for military members to describe to those who have not shared them. Civilians therefore often find that their military friends and loved ones who had these experiences do not speak much about them. This in and of itself is not an issue. But for many military members, the sufferings and trials experienced in the line of duty leave them seeking answers to life’s biggest questions, and even leave some with trauma. For active and veteran military members who experience ongoing desolation and do not understand the greater purpose and value of their lives, a near crisis is evident.
There has evolved an epidemic of suicides within the United States armed forces both active and retired. As of today, the United States military is experiencing a record-high rate of suicide deaths amongst active-duty personnel; according to Military.com  and Business Insider , the American military recorded over 300 active-duty suicides in year 2018. This included a record-high 68 U.S. Navy Sailors and well-over 100 U.S. Army Soldiers (138 according to Army Times ). These numbers are very similar to those of prior years. According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Suicide Event Report , there was an average of 21.1 suicide deaths per 100,000 active-duty members amongst all branches of the armed forces in 2016.
Likewise, the rate of suicide amongst U.S. military veterans is very high. According to an official report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) , there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides annually during years 2008 – 2016, and the rate of veteran suicides increased more than 25% from 2005 to 2016. The rate of suicide is highest amongst young veterans – those between ages 18 and 34, and this age range experienced the highest increase in suicide from 2005 to 2016. Furthermore, the rate of suicide among veteran women was almost twice that of non-veteran women in 2016. An awareness campaign called “Remembering the 22”  stated that an average of 22 American veterans committed suicide on a daily basis in year 2014. According to the New York Times , that number is still approximately 20 as of 2019.
No matter what statistic or source one prefers, the simple fact is that military suicide is a serious problem in our society today, and government-sponsored prevention-programs alone have not proven to be significantly effective, despite great efforts. In fact, U.S. federal government officials, including the President and the Speaker of the House, have conveyed a message of great urgency, if not one of panic, referring to this issue as an “urgent crisis” as multi-billion-dollar funding efforts have proven fruitless thus far . Secular society is at a complete, acknowledged loss for the answer.
Solution & Relevance of this Author:
As a recently-discharged veteran of the U.S. armed forces, I experienced first-hand what the DoD has done to prevent suicide amongst active military personnel in recent years. I believe that one key reason why DoD suicide prevention efforts have proven to be ineffective is that they still lack one key element – faith. Of course, and not to their fault, the government cannot explicitly promote a specific religious belief for reasons of legality. However, they can do so implicitly to some extent, and I believe the DoD (and military unit leaders) could be doing more to endorse their under-utilized chaplains as a vital resource to their military personnel. In my military experience with the U.S. Navy, I found my chaplains, religious practices, and Christian faith beliefs to be constant and invaluable resources which provided an advantage of unwavering mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual stability even in the midst of adversity. I also encountered fellow Sailors and Marines who were unaware of (or did not make use of) these resources, and I witnessed first-hand how lacking this faith advantage can potentially affect military personnel in a very negative way. Later in my military career, while serving on the Navy funeral honors team, I rendered military planeside honors and funeral honors for at least two sailors who committed suicide, both active-duty and veteran.
I joined the Secular Franciscan Order in 2014 and took my final profession vow as a Franciscan in early 2019. As a Franciscan religious, I am qualified and called in my Christian faith to minister to the needs of our society, including our active military and veterans. I was also fully trained in Healing & Deliverance Ministry by the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis in 2017. This ministry prayerfully provides physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual healing for those to whom it ministers and has regularly dealt with all sorts of issues including depression, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts with great worldwide success.
It was not long after my aforementioned experiences on the funeral honors detail that I more deeply realized the advantage I had from knowing and implementing the tools of my faith. Using my faith to push through difficulties came naturally to me, and I understood the inestimable value of this which many other military personnel did not have. I also was aware of a text from St. Ignatius Loyola which provided an ideal framework for a faith-based resource to combat this problem of military suicide.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was a 16th – century Spanish soldier and devout Christian who was severely wounded in battle, and who knew the same struggles of our modern-day military and veterans. There is a particular portion of his writings, referred to as the Discernment of Spirits, which I believe would be of great assistance to them. However, the writing style is outdated, elaborate, and not easy to understand. Therefore, I have taken the initiative to translate his work into modern (English) language, and also to assemble the information in a format which best suits military members – in the form of a “field manual”; that is, in a simple, direct, organized, and sequential manner. I am assembling the work in a format similar to the U.S. Navy Trainee Guide or the U.S. Army Ranger Handbook. This military writing style is catered to offer the quickest and most effective comprehension (and application) of the information presented. My hope is that by presenting the information in this manner, which military members are most acclimated to, it will be most effective for their benefit.
I began this work in March of 2017, first with the necessary reading, thoroughly studying the materials, then expressing them in this new format, and adding supporting Scriptures, citations, and analysis. The manuscript is presently about 53% written.
I estimate that another three months of full-time work on this project will be sufficient. Therefore, I am initially seeking funds of $5700 to cover my living expenses for three months.
This reference list and all in-text citations are in CSE format, Citation-Sequence sub-format, 8th edition.
1. Kime P. Active-duty military suicides at record highs in 2018. Military.com. 2019 Jan 30. [accessed 2019 Apr]. https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/01/30/active-dutymilitary-suicides-near-record-highs-2018.html.
2. Kime P. US military suicide rates for active-duty troops near record highs in 2018. Business Insider. 2019 Jan 30. [accessed 2019 Apr]. https://www.businessinsider.com/active-duty-military-suicides-by-branch-2018-2019-1.
3. Myers M. Suicides among active-duty soldiers are up about 20 percent. Army Times. 2019 Feb 4. [accessed 2019 Apr]. https://www.armytimes.com/news/yourarmy/2019/02/04/suicides-among-active-duty-soldiers-are-up-about-20-percent/.
4. Larry D. Pruitt, Ph.D. et al. DoD Suicide Event Report, 2016 Annual Report. U.S. Department of Defense. 2017 Jun 27. [accessed 2019 Apr].https://www.dspo.mil/Portals/113/Documents/DoDSER%20CY%202016%20Annual%20Report_For%20Public%20Release.pdf?ver=2018-07-02-104254-717.
5. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Veteran Suicide Data Report 2005–2016. [modified 2018 Sep; accessed 2019 Apr].https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/datasheets/OMHSP_National_Suicide_Data_Report_ 2005-2016_508-compliant.pdf.
6. Warriors for Freedom: Remembering the 22. 2017. [accessed 2019 Apr].https://www.warriorsforfreedom.org/rememberingthe22/.
7. Steinhauer, J. V.A. officials, and the nation, battle an unrelenting tide of veteran suicides. New York Times. 2019 Apr 14. [Accessed 2019 Apr]. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/14/us/politics/veterans-suicide.html.
8. Kime P. Hours after 7th Vet suicide at VA, officials repeat plea for public to help. Military.com. 2019 Apr 30. [accessed 2019 Apr 30]. https://www.military.com/dailynews/2019/04/30/hours-after-7th-vet-suicide-va-officials-repeat-plea-public-help.html.
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