For generations, Memorial Day has honored Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.

A ceremony planned May 7 will honor living military personnel and help them heal from their "soul injuries."

Central Ohio's Fallen Comrade Ceremony: Honor the Living will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. May 7 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1581 Cambridge Blvd. in Marble Cliff.

"Soul injuries are defined as being the unmourned losses and unforgiven guilt that many of our military personnel carry with them, even after they have left the service," said Upper Arlington resident Kathy Lowrey Gallowitz, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Ohio Air National Guard and coordinator of the May 7 event.

"These soul injuries are not necessarily debilitating," she said. "It usually doesn't manifest itself as post-traumatic stress disorder. It's just something that a lot of our warriors are carrying around with them. They haven't been able to lay down that burden."

An unmourned loss may be for a fellow soldier who was killed in action.

"When you're deployed on a mission and a comrade falls, you may never have a chance to really mourn his or her loss," Gallowitz said. "You head back to the barracks and get ready for the next battle."

The local ceremony and effort is based on the work of Opus Peace, a Tampa-based nonprofit organization created by Deborah Grassman, a 30-year mental-health nurse practitioner who worked with dying veterans at VA hospitals.

"She found the end-of-life experience for many of these veterans was filled with more anxiety, more fretting and just more difficulty because they had never been able to let go of the loss or guilt they carried inside themselves," Gallowitz said.

Fallen-comrade ceremonies usually are held at VA hospitals or hospice centers, she said.

"Our event is one of the first held in a church setting," Gallowitz said. "It's not a religious ceremony, however. It's a ceremony of healing."

The May 7 ceremony will feature three speakers:

* Retired Cpl. Josh Sams of the 1st Battalion 6th Marines H&S Company from Wilmington, who was injured by an IED in 2012 while serving in Afghanistan.

* Sarah Clifton, a mother of three and wife of a former Ohio Army National Guard Green Beret who nearly died in Afghanistan while participating in a raid against a Taliban stronghold in 2009.

* The Rev. Elizabeth Krall, who teaches the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Community Clergy Training Program to the faith community.

"As much as this ceremony is for military personnel and veterans, it's also for family members, civilians, caregivers and clergy," Gallowitz said.

"Family members can be impacted by the soul injuries their loved ones still carry, but may not understand what they are going through," she said.

"What our veterans need is support and understanding after they return home from their service."

The centerpiece of the ceremony serves as a healing moment for participants, said the Rev. Scott Johnson, a Kenton-based minister who has gone through the organization's training program and will serve with Gallowitz as the ceremony's host.

"We'll invite each veteran to write (on a rock) the name of a person or an event that they still feel loss or guilt about," he said. "They can then bring that rock to the front and lay it down on a table. They've carried this burden, and now they are laying the burden down in a symbolic way. They're not abandoning it, but they're acting to let it go so they can go on with their life with more peace ...

"A fallen-comrade ceremony creates a safe environment, a safe place for veterans no matter what they have experienced or carried with them or suffered," Johnson said.

For family members, the ceremony can serve as a safe place to remember, Gallowitz said. The event also gives caregivers and other civilians the opportunity to show their support.

The ceremony is open to the public, she said.

While they aren't required, reservations are appreciated and can be made at goo.gl/b7EUPa.

Both Gallowitz and Johnson are making their concern for military personnel their life's work.

Since retiring from the National Guard, Gallowitz has established Vanguard Veteran.

"I'm working as a consultant, helping civilians, nonprofit organizations and businesses understand, reach and support veterans, members of the military and their families," she said.

Johnson said he will leave his position May 1 at St. John's Evangelical Church in Kenton to begin a ministry dedicated to veterans.

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