The Veteran’s Way Spiritual Education Pilgrimage (VWSEP) is a spiritual retreat to El Camino de Santiago that assists veterans in their recovery from an array of military-related issues, including mental illness, combat or non-combat related trauma, family/marital problems, and others. It is a group pilgrimage across Spain for veterans seeking relief, spiritual understanding, fellowship, fun, and everything in between! We arrive at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in Southern France and undergo a nearly 500 mile pilgrimage that ends in the Northwestern part of Spain, in Santiago de Compostela. The journey is physically challenging, but the spiritual formation perhaps more so. This is NOT a pilgrimage for veterans looking for a vacation, although there are certainly some vacation elements to be enjoyed.
As a former infantry Marine, I know of the pain and hardship active-duty and former military members undergo, especially young men trying to get beyond the devastating effects of moral injuries caused by combat and the gross inculturation of military life. Transformational recovery is difficult, to put it lightly. But, in my humble experience, pilgrimage is a proven method. It’s sort of like a mental shortcut.
In 2012, I underwent a combat deployment to Sangin, Afghanistan. The night before we departed, God spoke to me with unmistakable clarity: “You call yourself a warrior yet you don’t follow my Teachings.” I knew something had to change but I didn’t comprehend what. Like Francis of Assisi, the prospects of knighthood were still very appealing to me, and how was I to fathom a God who did not declare war? The God of Zechariah’s prophetic dream (“Not by military might but by my spirit”) would be the oracle of a foreign God to me for many years.
In Afghanistan, I became intrigued by a symbol one of my squadmates would sometimes don. It was a cross, the Cross of Saint James. The symbol was important to him because one of his friends had been killed in Sangin not long before we arrived and his family started a clothing line in his honor. The clothing line featured the Cross of Saint James, otherwise known as The Pilgrim’s Cross. For well over one thousand years, the Pilgrim’s Cross has inspired people from many different walks of life. (It’s even tattooed on me!)
In spring 2018, while on pilgrimage, God began speaking with me more directly about the Cross of Saint James. As I passed through Galicia, I rediscovered the Pilgrim’s Cross and realized that it was more than a military memory–it was a special sign of predestination, beckoning me toward some sacred end. Three years later, I established the VWSEP to inspire veterans, to help them with their journey of purification from past tragedies and events, to offer supplicational prayer on their behalf, and to form them spiritually, mentally, and physically. And the indulgences bestowed upon pilgrims who reach their sacred end is nothing to scoff at. Lives change when we follow the Way, for we find ourselves on the Way also following the Truth and the Life.
I will teach you to be a disciple of the Way.
Groups are beginning to form for the Summer 2022 pilgrimage!
Contact Brother Lance, at, email@example.com for more information!