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Fallen away veterans invited back to Church

The names of 6,200 Coloradans killed or missing in action are listed on the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora. For the first time since the memorial was dedicated in 2013, the site will be blessed during an outdoor Mass for veterans, their families and friends Sept. 28. Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez will be the main celebrant of the Mass, which will be concelebrated by other priests of the archdiocese. Deacons will assist.

Click here for the event page.

The event starts at 10:30 a.m. with a short program that includes a performance by the Air Force Academy Cadet Choir and inspiring talks by retired Air Force Gen. Mike Duggan and retired Air Force Sgt. Bill Lancaster. The Knights of Columbus will serve a complimentary lunch after the Mass and tours will be conducted. Master of ceremonies will be Rick Crandall, KEZW-AM morning show host and founder and president of the Colorado Freedom Memorial.

The Mass and program was organized by the deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver to express gratitude to veterans and to help those who may have fallen away from their faith to reconnect with the Church, said Deacon Dave Thompson, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

“At the end of that war, veterans were seriously disrespected. It was embarrassing and shameful,” he said. “A lot of veterans have had that experience after other wars since then.”

While the trauma of war can result in deeper faith for some veterans, in others it can lead to loss of faith and/or diminished participation in religious activities, reports the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD.

“I’ve interviewed thousands of veterans over the years. Many of them talk about falling away from their faith because of things they had to see and do in war,” Crandall said. “They think: I’ve done something out of necessity that God is not going to be happy with.

“There’s a bridge that needs to be crossed to bring them back [to God],” added Crandall, who is a convert to Catholicism. “That was the whole idea for this event.”
Mount Tabor Counseling, which offers therapy from a Catholic perspective, will have counselors and contact information available for veterans who may want to speak with one at the event or in the future, Deacon Thompson said.

“We want them to know that if they are suffering, healing is possible through God and the Church,” he said.
Attendees are urged to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. Some seating will be available for those with disabilities, the organizers said.

The organizers said they have no idea how many people will attend the liturgy and luncheon. It is open to both Catholics and non-Catholics.

“It will be a beautiful celebration,” Crandall said. “We’re trying to make it a wonderful sense of community. Who knows, it could be the first of an annual event to help veterans.”

Outdoor Mass & Program for Veterans

Sept. 28, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Pre-event music starting at 10:30 a.m.
Mass & Program from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Colorado Freedom Memorial,
756 Telluride St., Aurora, CO 80011
Questions? Call 303-715-3198

Featured image courtesy of Colorado Freedom Memorial Facebook page

Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.
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