An extraordinary event took place in Fayetteville, NC, on September 21, 2019. Fifty years of history were relived through the live recollections of past Quaker House directors, counselors, board members, and people whose lives were touched by Quaker House. People arrived from across the country and over 200 guests were in attendance, many of them having, themselves, been a vital part of Quaker House.
Several themes emerged from the stories that were shared. No one was “prepared” for the work of Quaker House on arrival due to its unique nature, but many times the idea was reiterated that it was a calling. The institutional knowledge and support of the board members to carry the work forward during the transitions from one director to the next and the importance of being part of the Fayetteville community was emphasized in ways that were humorous and also in ways that showed how the community itself shouldered our mission. I wish everyone had been able to join us. It was an experience I will never forget and for which I will be forever grateful. As it happens, we have a board member who is a professional radio show host, Patricia Stansbury. I am transcribing much of her audio files to the web site, as time permits, and hope to post the audio, as well. We also had an amazing photographer, Michele Falls. All the photos in the Fall 2019 newsletter were from the event, and Michele also put together a wonderful 8-minute video montage for us. For the limited space of this post, I will just share parts of what two of our special guest panelists shared with us.
Monisha Rios came to Quaker House when she heard there would be a presentation on moral injury. She said, “As I became more and more connected with Joanna [Quaker House’s counselor] over time, I found another way that I could come to terms with my moral injuries. Because it isn’t only about being assaulted or witnessing assault or watching my fellow soldiers kill themselves or hearing about how soldiers in my unit were raping children and buying them for sex. For me, as a Viequense [native of Island of Vieques, off Puerto Rico], . . . my moral injury also comes from the awareness that we are an empire, that we are still colonizing places, that we are raping the earth as well that we are the number one polluter in the world, that our over 4800 defense sites across the world, on every continent, in every country come with violence, come with murder, come with rapes, come with the intentional poisoning of waters and lands, come with torture. I can’t have these conversations in VA Hospitals because my colleagues are often too uncomfortable with reality. My colleagues don’t understand that many of us, after our time on active duty, need to talk about peace, we need to talk about the realities of war as we’ve seen them and lived them and performed them. I’m a perpetrator. I’m a witness. I’m a victim. With Quaker House, I can be my whole self. I can find whole healing. I don’t have to just focus on a tiny aspect of my experience because that’s what my counselor is comfortable with. That is what has ultimately saved my life and kept me going.” [You can read her full remarks and subsequent interview here.]
Ricky Clousing was an interrogator who found that he could no longer do his job the way the military required and still be true to his values. He spoke eloquently about this, both at the Anniversary Event and then in an interview back at Quaker House. He described an phenomenon that we witness everyday in this country. When he tried to discuss his concerns about the interrogation techniques, he explained, “The perspective I was getting from the chaplain and even from church members from back home where I’m from is that, with regards to the military and the government, that essentially God established the government and our job is to obey it and that the Bible says that . . . When I was going through that time in the military, it also challenged my faith in a way that I doubted my beliefs and I doubted God’s existence and I questioned whether or not the Church was right or being manipulated and what was right, what was truth?” Ricky considers himself a Christian and credits a Sufi translator’s devotion to God and friendship with Ricky with helping him to come full circle in his own faith. Quaker House was able to help validate that he could trust his convictions of what was right and what was wrong and make a stand based on those convictions.
We would like to thank the donors who made our 50th Anniversary DVD possible. This DVD has two separate videos—one is the history of Quaker House and the other contains videos from people who have been helped by Quaker House over the years. It is available for $10 in our store, and we hope you will check it out. Finally, the event itself would not have been possible without an amazing board and planning committee that was clerked by Lynn Newsom. Thank you!
By Kindra Bradley, Quaker House Executive Director
Published in our Fall 2019 newsletter, News from the HomeFront.