Colin Morrison grew up playing hockey. His love for the sport defined a large part of his childhood, and he played every season until joining the Marines after high school. But after spending 9/11 at boot camp and two tours in Iraq, he was honorably discharged in 2005.
He picked the sport back up three years ago, though, and found the Warrior Hockey program shortly thereafter. He now leads their team in Arizona.
As Amalie Benjamin writes, Warrior Hockey works alongside USA Hockey to provide injured and disabled US military veterans with “a way for them to find the camaraderie and support they experienced in their military units and a therapeutic tool for their mental health.”
Considering the rampant cases of PTSD and the high rate of suicide among veterans when compared to the larger population, such tools can be invaluable to helping those who sacrificed for our country find peace within its borders.
As Mike Vaccaro, a participant in Warrior Hockey and one of its representatives to USA Hockey, described, most of the people who play have “invisible wounds” and are disabled as a result of their service. He also notes that the program is about “veterans helping veterans get through their emotions. . . . hopefully when those guys feel bad, they go on the ice and they can get through to their next day or their next week, whatever it takes.”
Colin Morrison added that, when they’re on the ice, “everybody’s out there, smiles ear to ear, laughing and having a good time. So regardless of what’s going on in our lives, that hour that we’re on the ice, that’s all gone. We all have our stresses or what life is, and most of these veterans have the additional stresses of dealing with their disabilities.”
The program has proved so effective that the Navy Federal Credit Union recently announced that they were donating $30,000 to the group on behalf of NHL Veterans Appreciation Night. That money will ensure the team can afford to continue meeting every week for the better part of two more years while providing a level of consistency and reliability that is especially needed given the challenges so many of the veterans face.
Helping those with hidden wounds
One of the most difficult parts of knowing how to consistently show appreciation for the men and women that have served and sacrificed on behalf of our country is that many of them return with wounds we can’t see. Their scars can fade from our memory long before they actually heal.
That’s why some of the most effective ministries to veterans come from other veterans.
There’s something about a shared trauma or similar experience that enables people to help in ways they otherwise could not. It’s a key part of God’s redemptive work and one of the reasons he places so much emphasis throughout Scripture on seeing our past trials as opportunities for ministry.
As Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
Colin Morrison and the others at Warrior Hockey exemplify this truth well.
But all of us have some experience or trauma in our past that God can use to help others who are still struggling with something similar today. So ask God to help you recognize those scars in others, and be open to his guidance on how to bring some good from that pain by helping someone else.
If you’re in the midst of that suffering now, ask God to bring someone into your life who can provide that kind of help to you. And be vulnerable enough to accept it when he or she comes.
Pain and suffering are inescapable elements of this fallen life. But that doesn’t mean we have to endure them alone. In fact, we aren’t meant to.
How might God use that truth in your life today?