As we enter the last week before Great Lent, we are encouraged to occupy ourselves with assisting those around us suffering from misfortune or illness.
The Georgian Wounded Warrior Program emulates the very successful Wounded Warrior Project in the USA. It is run by the US Office of Defense Cooperation’s Bilateral Affairs Office, based at the US Embassy in Tbilisi. Its personnel include civilian rehabilitation experts and serving US Army personnel.
In Georgia, the project has been providing prostheses to Georgian veterans who have lost limbs in the 2008 war against Russia, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of operations. As is well-known, Georgia has been the largest non-NATO military contingent in Afghanistan for some time, and a substantial number of mortalities and serious injuries have been sustained by Georgian troops on active duty there. A modern Rehabilitation Centre is to be commissioned by August 2016 in Tbilisi with funding and technical support from the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project.
An identified deficiency in the Georgian Military, and in Georgia in general, is a shortage of trained counsellors or therapists to deal with psychological illnesses, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The military chaplains embedded in Georgian battalions, provided by the Georgian Church, have previously received some basic training in counselling; given that Georgian soldiers are reluctant to admit vulnerability to their comrades, or to strangers, a chaplain is often the first port of call for a distressed soldier having difficulty coping. The established Orthodox Christian model of intimacy and confidentiality between the priest and his spiritual son provides a good base upon which counselling, guidance, or even referral for additional treatment, can develop.
Last week, representatives of the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project met with relevant clergy from the Georgian Church to discuss co-operation, with great willingness on the Georgian side for Georgian chaplains to receive training from US Special Forces chaplains in identifying and supporting Georgian soldiers with psychological problems. This is a very pleasing development indeed, and we will keep readers posted on new developments.
For those interested in the interface between Orthodox Christianity and mental health, I can strongly recommend Father Alexis Trader’s website and his book, Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy: A Meeting of Minds
Another function of the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project is to find employment for demobilised soldiers who have suffered from physical or psychological injuries. Given the high rate of unemployment amongst the able-bodied in Georgia, this is a challenge. That being said,they have many attributes that are desirable in the private sector. Veterans are typically highly disciplined and reliable, amenable to training in complex tasks including IT and communications, work effectively in teams, and often have leadership experience gained under very trying conditions. Employers in Georgia wishing to employ wounded veterans in their enterprises, or provide other support for rehabilitation activities, may contact me in the comments section below to be referred to the relevant personnel at the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project.