David W. Peters served as an enlisted Marine and Army Chaplain, deploying to Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. His experiences in Iraq and the founding of the Episcopal Veterans Fellowship is told here by NPR’s John Burnett. David is a graduate of Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, (M.Div), Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, SC (D.Min) and Seminary of the Southwest (MAR). He is a Board Certified Chaplain and is ordained by The Episcopal Church. His books, Death Letter: God, Sex, and War, Post-Traumatic God: How the Church Cares For People Who Have Been to Hell and Back, and Christ Walk Crushed with Anna Courie describe his own path to healing after war, a path he regularly invites his fellow veterans to consider. David blogs for the Huffington Post, Oxford University Press, and hosts two podcasts, the Dear Padre Podcast and a serial story, The Ermenfrid Penitential. David currently serves as the Vicar of the Pflugerville Church Plant in the Diocese of Texas. He is married to Sarah Bancroft and has three sons.
The Rev. Dr. M. Lynn Smith-Henry, a co-founder of the Episcopal Veterans Fellowship, is a native Texan. Born in the Golden Triangle area, he grew up in a rural farming community with German roots in Northeast Houston where he graduated high school and then attended the University of St. Thomas for his first year of undergraduate study in philosophy and religion. He finished his BA at University of Houston where he received a fine arts degree in music composition. Commissioned December 7, 1976 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he entered active duty at Ft. Bliss, TX in February 1977 and officially retired from the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in June of 2012. During his career in the U.S. Army, he held several Military Occupational Skill identifiers to include Air Defense (AD), Military Intelligence (MI), and Civil Affairs (CA). His command assignments included both company and field grade levels for a total of nine years as a Nuclear Team Commander, a Nuclear Detachment Commander, a Special Operations Detachment Commander (GS), and a Battalion Commander (CBRN). As a senior MI analyst he spent a significant amount of time in real world theaters of operation attached to Special Operations Forces where he provided battle field analysis and assessments while participating in real world operations. He also served as a G2, General Staff, in the Special Operations community. Additionally, he served as the Senior Operations Officer, G3, of a MACOM and has extensive experience in managing Emergency Operations and Battle Field Operations Centers.
In preparation for his transition to ministry, he began graduate studies in religion and ancient Mediterranean cultures in the latter part of his military career. His graduate and post-graduate studies include the following academic credentials: MDiv, MSLS, DMin, PCRP (Humanities), and a DAS. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the Halacha of Flavius Josephus in the context of the Judean/Roman societies. After receiving his MDiv, he was ordained a Lutheran priest. Prior to his ordination, he served as a Lutheran Lay Minister to the soldiers at the Four Chaplains Chapel, Fort Lewis in the absence of an assigned Lutheran Chaplain.
Currently, the Rev. Dr. Smith-Henry worships in an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of Texas where he is a member, engaged in teaching adult formation with an emphasis on scriptural exegesis of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldean texts and volunteering in a number of capacities to include Usher, Eucharistic Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, and Pastoral Assistant to the Clergy. He also serves as the Veteran’s Advocate and Chaplain to the Veteran’s Guitar Project in Austin, TX, which offers all veterans an alternative therapy venue focused on fellowship and support in a safe, non-threatening environment with the opportunity to engage in making music by receiving instruction in guitar and participating with other veterans in a meaningful context of engagement. In February 2016, he joined seven other veterans and took vows, administered by the Suffragan Bishop to the Armed Forces, as a Novice in the Hospitallers of St. Martin, a veteran’s religious community focused on reconciliation and healing from Moral Trauma, which veterans face as a result of serving their country as a member of the military.
The Rev. Christian Hawley is a member of the Episcopal Veterans Fellowship where he loves being part of the Pilgrimages, helping out at the VA, and making connections with other veteran groups in Austin. Christian was an active duty engineering officer for the USAF 2001-2005, before leaving the service to pursue a career as a priest. Christian is now the associate rector at St Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Austin and can be reached at email@example.com.
Jan Barnes has been a member of the EVF since the beginning at Grace Church Georgetown. She is a member of The Order of St. Luke and is a part of the EVF as a healing presence at most Reconciliation services and serves with joy at the request of Father David Peters.
Jan has a background in marketing with an emphasis in hospital and corporate training. Now, her primary focus is the Christian Healing Ministry and is currently serving with a team at Grace Church to lead the Healing Service there each week. Jan is also currently the coordinator for the EVF Ministry at Grace Georgetown, which meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month following the Healing Service.
Richard Spiller was in the Air Force for four years during Viet Nam as a Fire Control Weapon Systems Technician. He was one of the original members of the EVF at Grace Church, Georgetown and continues to meet with the group regularly. Richard graduates this year from the Education for Ministry four year study at Grace Church and he is a cradle to grave Episcopalian. He and Jan have been together for sixteen years after meeting on a commercial flight to Phoenix/LA.
Hospitaller of St. Martin Brother John Moock served 14 years in the Army & Army Reserves (as a combat engineer, convoy security NCOIC, and Civil Affairs NCO) before repeated TBIs and complex Post Traumatic Stress took their toll. Even while struggling with alcohol, homelessness, and depression, John sought to help his fellow veterans however he could. In 2012, John joined the staff at Hidden Wounds, a nonprofit providing crisis and interim counseling to at-risk service members, veterans, and their families. Currently, he is their Volunteer and Internships Coordinator, as well as a SC Department of Mental Health Certified Peer Support Specialist.
John is pursuing a degree in social work from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. He is a parishioner at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, but still considers Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston his “church home.” He is a member of the Hospitallers of Saint Martin, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, Guild of all Souls, Order of Saint Vincent, and Society of King Charles the Martyr. He is supported in his work by his beloved, Caroline, and their menagerie of rescue animals.
EVF Administrator, DeSha Tolar-Thomas, is Director of Faith Formation for Children and Youth at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Bryan, TX. A native of Louisiana, DeSha is a poet with a BA in English from Rhodes College and an MFA in creative writing from LSU. She and her husband, Mike, a hospice chaplain, are proud parents of two adopted sons and one grandson. DeSha enjoys live music, baseball, brazen stand-up comedy, and being outside.
DeSha’s military connections include her husband, U.S. Army Veteran Mike Thomas, grandson of T4 BSM WWII U.S. Army Veteran Earl Dutton, her father, John Tolar, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves, her grandfathers, WWII U.S. Army Veteran Marcus Desha Swayze and Lt. John Tolar, U.S. Army Reserves, Charleston, S.C. and WWII U.S. Army Veteran, her step-grandfathers, WWII U.S. Army Veteran Capt. Henry Bernstein and Korean War U.S. Army Veteran James Hearn, her great-uncle, Korean War U.S. Navy Veteran Bill Tolar, her uncles, Vietnam War U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Byron Davis and USAF Veteran Durwood Kuhn, and her cousin, Iraq War U.S. Army Veteran Travis Davis.
This is the reason these veterans gathered for this pilgrimage, to come home from war. They come to find reconciliation, a sacrament in the Church. So, before the confession, the veterans write down their confessions on small pieces of paper. They write down the memories they cannot get rid of, no matter how much they drink, or how far they run.
On David Peters’ sermon, “Learning War and Reconciliation.” Read the article by Nick Conner at Fort Hood Sentinel.
“I found that going to war was really pretty easy and it was kind of exciting, and there was a lot of energy around it. But when I came home, I really fell apart emotionally and spiritually.” -David Peters
Thank you for spreading the word about EVF! You are welcome to use the blurb, brochure, and images below to promote our organization and help veterans in need.
The Episcopal Veterans Fellowship equips Christians for missional ministry to veterans through prayer, hospitality, and reconciliation. We offer educational workshops, consulting, and coaching so churches can reach out with God’s love to veterans who live in the community. Each EVF group is led by The Hospitallers of St. Martin, a New Monastic Christian Community for veterans ministry.
Please contact David Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.episcopalveteransfellowship.org if you need additional information.
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