Posts Tagged ‘Moral injury’

We are experiencing a crisis in American culture; the inner wounding of veterans who have not been adequately welcomed home, healed and returned to a meaningful part of society. The past dozen years of multiple deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in deep combat stress for those who have served. American citizens, regardless of where they stand on issues of war and peace or what attitudes they hold toward the veracity of any war in particular, are detached from those they have sent on their behalf. They do not know how to really help.

One of the recent attempts to reach out to these highly at risk veterans is All the Way Home. This community of humanitarian citizens and people of faith are building networks of mentors, small healing circles and educational events to reach the public at large.

Please consider linking their site to your own and passing it on to veterans, their families and those working with them!

As the alarming statistics went public, the number of veteran suicides, many of us rose to a difficult occasion: We recognized how the society that sends veterans to places and situations where they are killed, wounded, or left with invisible wounds of the soul has little ability to welcome them all the way home. Our military does an admirable job of preparing a volunteer military to achieve their goals. But we, the ones who ultimately send, do not receive or receive well. We lack the ways and mechanisms to foster healing, reintegration and finding a new purpose after military service. It is a community challenge for which we are all responsible.

To this end we have created a network of care that we call All the Way Home. Our mission is to reach out with an equipped group of mentors, the availability of healing circles, and education for the community at large.

I encourage you to stroll through our website and also pass on to veterans, family members of veterans, those who work with veterans, and to interested people in general.

Not all wounds are visible. Thanks be to God that healing is available.

I just had lunch with three veterans – two from Vietnam era service and one from two deployments in Iraq – and their stories were oh so familiar: They all know veteran friends who have taken their own lives after returning to civilian life. This epidemic rolls on without much awareness on the part of the general public. The fact that known suicides keep coming at an average of 23 each day is shocking. We have lost more combat vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to suicide than on the battlefield.

The issue includes what has come to be defined as PTSD, but it is much more than that. It also includes moral injury, the violation of one’s internal moral code. It also has something to do with the radical disconnect between the soldiers we send into battle and mainstream culture. They represent a very slender proportion of the population, these vets do. Their service – often far away and remote in public consciousness – is a very abstract thing. And we – all those who by extension sent them to where they were wounded in body and soul and took the lives of others – have done little to welcome them all the way home. We have not provided a place of cleansing, purification, acceptance, adjustment and belonging.

This issue is so very important on many different levels. And it doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum or how you happen to assess whether any particular war is just. As long as we send men and women to war we are responsible for their eventual healing. Efforts are now afoot in Columbia, Missouri to do just that. We are organizing networks of vets, their families and those who work with them to find a better solution.

Our plans include hosting seminars to present the primary issues at stake such as moral injury, establishing healing circles in which wounded warriors may find healing on the other side of their deployment, and retreats for veterans to address their inner wounds and seek the transformation that may come through community and spirit.

This is no small thing. It will require efforts from the faith community and others to address it. In the end this crisis itself may make us more circumspect about the ways in which we send young men and women into harm’s way. And those who have been there and know what it really means will raise the most serious and relevant questions.