GOLD Coast Deacon Gary Stone is among the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, receiving an Order of Australia Medal for service to veterans and their families.

Deacon Stone, who served for decades in the army as a chaplain, in the federal police, and six years ago founded the Veterans Care Association that he says has helped veterans find a purpose in life and brought them back “from the brink of suicide, addiction, and hopelessness”.

“I am grateful to God and the Christian community who have nurtured me in missionary service,” Deacon Stone said.

“I have tried to bring Good News to others. Of course, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been the ultimate Good News in my life, and in the healing of those veterans, that we have been supporting along the way.”

Deacon Stone said his award was only possible because of the team effort of VCA members, “a group of formerly wounded, ill and injured veterans ourselves, who were once part of the problem, and have transformed ourselves into being part of the solution to veterans’ health”.

“The Catholic Leader has reported many Good News stories about VCA’s flagship program called Timor Awakening, conceived, designed and delivered by our son Michael, a veteran of 20 years service himself,” he said.

“We have seen many transformations – traumatized people brought back from the brink of suicide, addiction, and hopelessness – to find identity and purpose.

“We have been demonstrating that there is a better way to help veterans and their families by delivering a wellness-focused model promoting the nurture of body, mind, soul, and relationships, rather than the community relying exclusively on the treatment of sickness model, we had been primarily been receiving.

“We have been demonstrating to the Department of Veterans Affairs that veterans can be an upfront integrated part of their rehabilitation services. We hope they are getting the message.”

Deacon Stone said it had been “a real joy” to see veterans wanting to give to others.

“A good example is Vietnam veteran Rob Schreuder, (The Catholic Leader, August 25, 2019), who has been instrumental in raising funds for our Veterans University and Retreat in Timor,” he said.

“He (Rob Schreuder) will be assisting us in our next programs to be delivered on the Gold Coast in July and September, as a logistics coordinator.

“Coronavirus may have stopped us going to Timor for a few months, but we’ve adapted to that by planning to deliver programs to train up more pastoral carers, and we’ve been flooded with applications.”

Deacon Stone said VCA planned to continue delivering rehabilitation programs in Australia and Timor and to improve the culture and system of veterans’ health.

“It is fundamental missional work – the church at work in improving our wider society,” he said.

“I would certainly hope that any attention that comes with this award is mirrored to inspire others to care for those in need.

“Our team at Veterans Care are simply people who care.

“We are inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan who looked with compassion upon a wounded traveler and offered him care.”

The article was written by Mark Bowling for the Catholic Leader. You can read the full article here