As has been highlighted here before, troops may come home from war with many types of wounds — physical, mental, and even spiritual. Much of the non-physical wound care has focused on PTSD, but for a few years advocates have been trying to raise the importance of the moral injuries that troops may bring home:
Moral injury is when veterans feel extreme guilt and shame from something they did or witnessed in conflict that goes against their values…The term was introduced in the 1990s by a now-retired Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Shay, who diagnosed Read more
Thomas Gibbons-Neff of Georgetown University pens a fascinating read on moral injury, a reaction to war distinct from, but often confused with, post traumatic stress.
Moral injury is a nebulous term that few use seriously because it doesn’t read well on Veterans Affairs claims. It’s a new term but not a new concept. Moral injury is as timeless as war — going back to when Ajax thrust himself upon his sword on the shores of Troy. Unlike post-traumatic stress, which is a result of a fear-conditioned response, moral injury is a feeling of existential disorientation that manifests as intense guilt…
As discussed here many times, moral Read more
The Chicago Tribune revisited the issue of “moral injury” in returning US combat veterans. The term is distinct from PTSD and is defined in the article as
the soul-scarring mental condition described by experts as “moral injury,” or the internal conflict a soldier can experience after participating in wartime atrocities that contradict personal values.
Other groups have similarly tried to recruit and train churches to help these veterans, as they feel they’re more likely to open up to a religious leader than someone in their chain of command. Said a chaplain: Read more
Last Monday was Veteran’s Day. Pentacostal preacher Kenneth Copeland hosted David Barton, a self-described “expert in historical and constitutional issues,” and they lit the fires of controversy by addressing the issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the Bible. Citing the King James Version of Numbers 32:20-22, Copeland says
…”If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the Lord to war, and will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, and the land be subdued before the Lord: then afterward ye shall return…and be guiltless before the Lord, and before the nation.”
Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now.
You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, it doesn’t take psychology; that promise right there will get rid of it.
Copeland continues, explaining, in essence, that PTSD is Read more
An article at the Christian Post notes broken relationships are a strong trend in the list of contributing factors in those who commit suicide in the US military. In addition, as has been noted here before, the concepts of moral injury and moral responsibility are significant in the US military — and young people today may not be equipped with the necessary moral foundation to deal with these issues.
A retired US Army chaplain said one of the contributing factors to suicide in today’s Army may be that men and women are entering the military with a substantially weaker spiritual foundation than prior generations — meaning they are often ill-equipped to handle the moral and life challenges they rapidly see in combat in today’s military: Read more
The story of 1LT T.C. Houston has already been noted, but the eventual full article written by the reporter had an interesting anecdote not told the first time:
One soldier, a sniper, wrestled with his mission. Houston said the guardsman was struggling with the paradox of killing and eternity. Houston said he helped the soldier understand how God views this and how he can continue with his mission.
“According to the Bible, restoring peace is a righteous act in accordance with faith,” the chaplain explained.
While only a snippet of what was likely a much larger conversation, it is seems to be far better than the answer to the similar question raised in Faith of the American Soldier, originally discussed here.
There are moral wounds in war, even apart from an individual’s religious beliefs. Fortunately, the military recognizes that potential and supports both chaplains and other means to try to address that sacrifice by its servicemembers.
In an era in which society encourages each to do his own thing, and “right” is a relative term, a recent study seems to indicate many people do inherently have an understanding of morality at their core — and this may sometimes conflict with the actions required by military combat:
The conflicts that troops feel can range from survivor guilt from living through an attack where other troops died, to witnessing or participating in the unintentional killing of women or children, said researchers involved in the study.
The key quote comes near the end of the article: Combat experienced US Marines were the subject group, and the study showed
Their condition [PTSD] was more closely linked to an inner conflict Read more
The Stars and Stripes covered the “Navy and Marine Corps’ annual conference on combat and operational stress,” and indicates new “buzzwords” — “moral injury” — are causing some consternation:
One Marine commander roped into a panel discussion at the last minute bluntly took issue with the phrase: “As a Marine, I’m insulted.”
Lt. Col. James “Hall” Bain…said he thought the term implied that Marines were stressed as a result of immorality.
The Corps trains Marines to have “the skill and the will to kill,” he said. “It’s based on an ethical standard.”
In his defense, LtCol Bain seems to take issue with the terminology, not the concept. In other places, the term “moral injury” has been used to describe the dissonance that occurs when one man kills another: Read more