Vietnam Veterans Retreat

By: 
Holli Seehafer
Vietnam Veterans Invited to
Healing Retreat at the Abbey
 
Vietnam veterans and their spouses have the opportunity to attend a uniquely formatted retreat at the Abbey of the Hills Inn and Retreat Center near Marvin. The Vietnam Veterans Hope and Healing Retreat starts Saturday, February 8, at 8:30 a.m. and concludes Sunday, February 9, at noon. Those who attend will have their rooms, meals and snacks included in the cost. 
“There are two very unique things about this retreat,” commented Deacon Paul Treinen, director of the Abbey. “It will be Christ-centered. While veterans have access to many other services, most of them cannot share the healing power of Christ. The second is that this retreat will be Vietnam veterans speaking to Vietnam veterans. Vets talking with vets will have a greater impact than a deacon or a pastor. We can’t speak to this like they can.” 
The idea for the healing retreat did not originate with the staff of the Abbey; instead, Treinen was approached about using the Abbey by a veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder and is undergoing counseling. “That’s precisely why the Lord has continued the Abbey,” Treinen said. “He has breathed new life into this place to do healing and things like that for the people of the region.” 
It was August when Treinen agreed to host the retreat, but it was a core group of individual veterans who have contacted other veterans to speak and be the helpers during the retreat. There is no organization planning or financing the event. There is a planning committee, and they have gained financial assistance to offer scholarships for any veterans and or their spouses who want to attend but feel they can’t afford to. “It’s just incredible how many people really care about this,” Treinen said. 
Retired pastor DeVern Schwenn has taken a role in the planning group who would like to see 50 participants at the retreat. “We are encouraging all Vietnam veterans to pursue this opportunity to come together for healing. A person can be a non-believer, and they can come and feel just as comfortable as can be,” he said. 
Schwenn explained that he knows some veterans don’t feel they need an event like this, but he would like to persuade them to consider the impact their presence could have on a fellow veteran who is in need of healing. “The fact that you’re a vet just puts you in touch with these people that nobody else can reach,” he said. “And maybe you could be an encouragement to someone else.” 
There is something unique about each of the groups of combat veterans, but, according to Schwenn, the Vietnam veterans have an extra element binding them. “It was a very unpopular war they were asked to go over to and risk their lives. And when they came home, many of them were denied any kind of glory or appreciation. But among them, there is such a camaraderie, such a brotherhood when they do get together,” Schwenn said. “It can be such a healing thing.” 
The two men are concerned that some veterans may be reluctant to participate in the retreat. Schwenn said he has counseled veterans and has been told stories of men so desperate, who fear God can never forgive them for their actions. “Some will need this hope and healing, and then there will be some who are helping them toward that,” Treinen said. “But there will also be some who don’t think they are deserving or worthy of this beautiful thing called healing. Those are the guys who’ve been stuffing these memories and emotions away and not sharing them for 50 years.” 
The format of the retreat is a series of short talks by veterans, and then opportunities for the attendees to sit down in small groups and address how it touches their hearts, according to Treinen. “Those who want to share will be able to, but those who just want to soak it up can do that. Nobody is going to be forced to talk,” Schwenn stressed. “If they want to just be with other vets who understand, that’s okay.” 
Veterans can attend with or without their spouses, and organizers say, spouses of Vietnam veterans are welcome to participate even if their vet can’t join them. More information is available by calling the Abbey at 605-398-9200. Treinen or the facility’s events coordinator, Brenna Rausch, can answer any questions.
“Vietnam has never left these guys,” Schwenn said. “But still, they are human beings with great hearts and great minds – it’s amazing how some of them can reach out and help others who are broken.” 
~Holli Seehafer

 

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