Always on the Route to Quaker House

I was always on this road, this road to Quaker House. I just did not know it. 

I was raised in a military family — birth to mid-high school.

One of my original majors in college was International Relations, but it was eventually switched out for English and a minor in biology, partly due to scheduling issues and time constraints, of all things.

When I applied to law school, both times (I transferred from Seattle University to the University of North Carolina), I specifically wrote in my essays that I wanted to practice law assisting nonprofit organizations. And, as a member of the first 1L class to get to choose an elective seminar at Seattle, I chose Introduction to International Law with Professor Chinen — because I wanted to know how to help nations and peoples live in harmony.

After I took the bar and felt like it was finally the right time for me to invest in regular volunteer work, I chose the Red Cross. I had no idea, at that time, that the Red Cross would show up several times in my reading of A service of love in war time: American Friends relief work in Europe, 1917 – 1919 as vital facilitators of the Quaker efforts during World War I. And, I think my high school friends would get a kick out of the fact that one of the key Quaker organizers of this humanitarian work was Rufus Jones. He was from Maine.

But, wait. How did the Religious Society of Friends suddenly start factoring into my story?

Turning right and going 2.5 miles brings you to Spring Friends. Continuing straight, off towards the horizon, another 72 miles brings you to Quaker House.

Well, one Sunday, I visited a Quaker meeting, partly because I wanted to learn more about their Peace Testimony. Many religions espouse peace, but I wanted to see what a longstanding core theological principle of intentionally promoting peace among nations, in addition to in our personal behaviors, looked like. I was fortunate in that I already had a strong religious faith upon which to build.

That Quaker Meeting was Spring Friends and, to get there, my best path included a 10-mile stretch of Route 87 South. That stretch of road became a regular journey for me. Little did I know, it would also become a section of my path to Quaker House, both figuratively and literally.

I got the call at about 9:00 Saturday night that I had been selected to be the next director of Quaker House, to follow in the footsteps of amazing directors before me and to work alongside wonderful experienced staff and a dedicated board of directors. They have a smooth transition planned. I will be learning from their expertise and experience all summer long, and Lynn and Steve Newsom, the current directors, will not be leaving their work at Quaker House until September.

Some of the Quaker House services:

  • Answering calls and providing assistance as a significant component of the GI Rights Hotline.
  • Educating about moral injury and its treatment.
  • Providing free and confidential in-person counseling for members of the military community, including for issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and moral injury.
  • And, of course, advocating for a more peaceful world.

Quaker House assists our military members and families and works to promote world peace. It was established and is supported by a community of faith. My path brought me here. On one hand, it is not surprising.

On the other hand, it is humbling.

A = Burlington, B = Spring Friends Meeting, and C = Quaker House.

 

The GI Rights Hotline

 

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First time in my life I have decided to actually put a bumper sticker on my car.

I met wonderful, inspiring people yesterday, two for the first time and two I had met once before. It was at a retreat about the GI Rights Hotline (1-877-447-4487) and Quaker House.

The windows at Charlotte Friends Meeting House, where we met for the retreat.
The windows at the Charlotte Friends Meeting House, where we met for the Piedmont Friends Fellowship retreat.

Steve Woolford and Lenore Yarger are two of the people who answer the phone when someone calls the GI Rights Hotline (it is run by a consortium of organizations, but Steve and Lenore are the two associated with Quaker House, and they take a lot of calls). They are there for people – to listen to them and answer their questions about navigating military regulations in tough situations. Sometimes, the caller has gone AWOL or UA (absent without leave or unauthorized absence) and wants guidance on returning and dealing with the consequences. Sometimes, the caller is facing a discharge that he or she feels should be at a different level than they are being told. Sometimes, the caller is having difficulty accessing medical or mental health services. And sometimes, a soldier realizes that he or she cannot be the instrument of any more death. Whatever the reason, the caller always needs someone to hear him or her.

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That is Steve, on the left. Hopefully, the picture captures some of his ability to connect to others. (When I asked to take this picture, Steve was chatting with David, who also attended the presentation). Lenore was not able to be there yesterday. I would love to meet her someday, too.

Calls to the Hotline come in from all over the world. However, in Fayetteville, hometown of Fort Bragg and nearby Pope Field, Joanna Nunez is there to talk to people in person. After all, it is not just with figuring out military regulations that people sometimes need assistance. Sometimes, they need help with the consequences of combat. These consequences range from PTSD and moral injury (feelings of guilt and shame related to actions required of soldiers), and sometimes the spillover into private lives, such as domestic violence. She has also counseled people dealing with sexual assault. I wish I had gotten a photo of her before she left. She is amazing.

Joanna does her counseling at and through Quaker House, which brings me to the incredible directors of Quaker House, Lynn and Steve Newsom. They keep all the programs of Quaker House running smoothly and continually reach out to the military community, and Fayetteville itself, intertwined as they are. As you can imagine, Directors Lynn and Steve refer people to Lenore and Steve at the Hotline or to Joanna for counseling. Hotline Lenore and Steve also may refer people in Fayetteville to Joanna for counseling, and Joanna may refer people to the Hotline for help with regulatory issues. And Directors Lynn and Steve are there in the thick of it.

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All these people do this work because they care. They care enough to do this day in and day out.