There is an invisible connection between veterans.
Often this bond is felt before knowing the other person is a veteran, according to Rev. Tom Theama, of Zion Lutheran Church in Manawa.
“It is hard to explain,” he said.
For this reason, area veterans will benefit from a new ministry at Zion Lutheran Church.
“Vets Helping Vets” encourages veterans to reach out to other veterans.
The home base for the ministry is Zion Lutheran Church in Manawa, under the guidance of Theama.
“The most common thing you hear is, ‘What can we do?’” Theama said.
The most successful outreach ministries target a certain group, he explained.
“Every community has a lot of veterans,” he said.
Within a month, the ministry has 14 volunteers, all military service veterans. They are already making a difference in the lives of other veterans.
The volunteers on standby include veterans from New London, Clintonville, Weyauwega, Iola, Manawa, Navarino and Winneconne.
The group includes men and women who served before, during and after the Vietnam War; veterans of the Gulf War and Desert Storm; and current military personnel.
According to Theama, Vets Helping Vets will provide guidance to any veteran in need, but they are not a funded group.
“If you’re looking for something material, we are not your first choice,” he said. “If you are looking for spiritual guidance or emotional support, we are here.”
Theama said the volunteers are available to provide support without pushing faith or religion on the person asking for help.
Helping veterans is important to Theama, who served in the field artillery unit of the Wisconsin Army National Guard from 1984-95.
“How many civilian pastors do you know who wear combat boots and dog tags?” he asked.
The military gear symbolizes that the church is involved in spiritual warfare with the devil and the world, he explained.
Becoming a Lutheran minister was a second career for Theama, who spent 20 years working in the automotive field.
He first tried selling used cars.
“It wasn’t a good career for me, because I wouldn’t lie,” he said.
He spent most of his automotive years in the parts or service departments before being called to the ministry. He was ordained in 2012.
Originally from Racine, Theama has lived most of his adult life in central Wisconsin. Currently residing in New London, he and his wife, Peggy, have a son and a daughter.