FALLS CHURCH, Va.- Some say seeing is believing, but for Capt. Brittany Wooten, the chaplain of Fort Belvoir’s Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU), there needs to be a reminder that even though some things are not seen, they should very much be believed. She’s talking about silent wounds and what the Army is doing to help Soldiers identify them and receive help to heal.
“The question of invisible wounds can be and should be focused on more, and I think SRUs can be groundbreaking in that. From the chaplain's view, I've seen that we’ve captured this idea of moral injury. It has been defined in the Chaplain world as wounds to our moral compass. Basically, what’s right and wrong,” said Wooten, who firmly believes when we change ourselves, we influence positive change in the world.
Earlier this month, the Army Recovery Care Program hosted a Summit with civilian partners on Post Traumatic Growth on Ft Belvoir. “Invisible wounds are often paired with spirituality. And by spirituality, I don't mean religiosity; I mean a sense of purpose and meaning and a connection to community, the hope that gives us life. We gather resources, and when we have summits like we did at Fort Belvoir a few weeks ago, this is always progress as we address invisible wounds together to see what is best for our Soldiers.”
Wooten’s been in the Army for 13 years and the last year and a half at the Ft Belvoir SRU. “I joined the Army to have THIS job! I love the healing work we do here at the SRU, and I believe it’s the best job I could ever have,” said Wooten, who said she was a sponge all week at the summit.
“That week gave me so much fuel to bring back to my SRU! The subject matter experts taught me how the communal nature and the holistic approach have to go into the other programs we are doing; this was not a one-off event. Everyone should incorporate this holistic approach into their everyday recovery care. Yoga is how I will do it this week. The holistic nature of how things are done was very helpful to me as a professional. It made me realize that the partnering we as the Army do with the trainers who come in and help is the best approach. I know in the Army we typically like to have trainers train the Army to do things to help Soldiers, but these subject matter experts who partner with us have the background and experience to help us tackle this with our Soldiers.”
During the summit at Ft. Belvoir, participants experienced working the whole approach. Activities ranged from meditation to archery, group settings, and book learning. Chaplain Wooten says she is grateful for this training to help Soldiers understand that wounds come in all shapes and sizes and that help is available.
“We are living a cumulative experience. These wounds come, and sometimes they can be big or small events. Verbal abuse in a work or domestic relationship can produce wounds. Part of the courage comes from people who see the wound for what they are and that they are not a cumulative experience in life that they have to have.”
Coming from a theology of grace and mercy, Chaplain Wooten smiles at the notion that all of this training, care, and concern for Soldiers, combined with the spiritual aspect of recovery in the program, works.
“When we work programs like Yoga, trauma reboot, and more from our summit this week or any others, frankly, we watch the Soldier, and when you see it in their eyes, you see they discover there is goodness inside of them and they find their power in a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. At that moment, they know that they matter to someone else, to God or a higher being, and then they keep going. They don’t stop. They keep going and make a magnificent change in themselves and the world.”