Arizona Civilians Host Military Chaplain Conference on Moral Injury

chaplainconfThough only recently publicized, the Arizona Coalition of Military Families hosted the 2016 Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and their Families at precisely the same time the Air Force Reserve Command was hosting its somewhat infamous conference.

The published article is somewhat vague, spending more time talking about the chaplaincy in general than the symposium itself. But there were some important quotes [emphasis added]: 

“The presentations and panels dealing with the role of faith and spirituality in the lives and healing of veterans are important to make the people who serve them…aware that an important aspect of the healing of veterans who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events during their military careers is spiritual in nature,” said Michael Wold, regional coordinator of Institute for Healing of Memories.

Part of veterans’ healing after traumatic events is “spiritual in nature.” That’s an important point that seems to have been missed or underemphasized at the AFRC conference, which seemed to focus more on psychology — despite the fact it was for chaplains.

Further [emphasis added]:

Military life brings on stress with other members of your unit, with your family and with the citizens of the countries where you are deployed. It also brings morale conflicts,” Wold said. “Chaplains have a unique ability to counsel on all types of personal matters because the conversations are held confidential not unlike those between attorney and client.”

Wold probably said “moral” conflicts, not “morale” — and it is outstanding that they are recognizing the need to address moral conflicts in the military (conflicts that may lead to moral injury).

Somewhat unfortunately, it is notable that the “they” in this case is civilians, not the military. As noted in a comment here on the AFRC conference, it seems more often than not the chaplains’ symposia and conferences organized by civilians are the only ones actually addressing the issues of moral conflict and spiritual and moral injury with a faith perspective.

While it must surely be happening at some level, it seems vastly underreported. It would be encouraging to see a publicized, military-organized chaplain conference that trained chaplains on the issues of moral conflict, moral injury, and the way they can address those issues within their faith constructs.



  • William Simpson

    Probably should have taken a closer look at the Institute’s website before praising it based on the “vague” article. Hard to find much mention there of God or faith, certainly the kind of faith that would make evangelicals comfortable. Best I can tell, the Arizonans would’ve been better off inviting someone from Brite’s Soul Repair Center.

    • @William Simpson
      Valid. It was not really an attempt to praise the “Institute for Healing of Memories” (the name probably tells you something about which direction they go), nor even necessarily the Arizona Coalition of Military Families, which hosted the event. It was more an attempt to recognize that they at least acknowledged the faith side of issues.

      According to the symposium website, they had one “track” (of seven) on “Faith and Spirituality.” It was by no means the focus of the event. But… at least they considered it, and an article was published noting it — neither of which seems to happen within military-sponsored events.