Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War
Rita Nakashima Brock, Gabriella Lettini
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The first book to explore the idea and effect of moral injury on veterans, their families, and their communities
Although veterans make up only 7 percent of the U.S. population, they account for an alarming 20 percent of all suicides. And though treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has undoubtedly alleviated suffering and allowed many service members returning from combat to transition to civilian life, the suicide rate for veterans under thirty has been increasing. Research by Veterans Administration health professionals and veterans’ own experiences now suggest an ancient but unaddressed wound of war may be a factor: moral injury. This deep-seated sense of transgression includes feelings of shame, grief, meaninglessness, and remorse from having violated core moral beliefs.
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, who both grew up in families deeply affected by war, have been working closely with vets on what moral injury looks like, how vets cope with it, and what can be done to heal the damage inflicted on soldiers’ consciences. In Soul Repair, the authors tell the stories of four veterans of wars from Vietnam to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—Camillo “Mac” Bica, Herman Keizer Jr., Pamela Lightsey, and Camilo Mejía—who reveal their experiences of moral injury from war and how they have learned to live with it. Brock and Lettini also explore its effect on families and communities, and the community processes that have gradually helped soldiers with their moral injuries.
Soul Repair will help veterans, their families, members of their communities, and clergy understand the impact of war on the consciences of healthy people, support the recovery of moral conscience in society, and restore veterans to civilian life. When a society sends people off to war, it must accept responsibility for returning them home to peace.
fatal fall. Pamela Pamela’s son, Dweylon, enlisted on March 7, 2001, just after his seventeenth birthday, and completed his basic and advanced training with great success. Then, the events of September 11 unfolded, and Pamela knew everything had changed. She began to worry and called everyone she knew in military service to see how to get her son out of the Army. She considered conscientious objector status, but she didn’t think he was prepared to apply. The military was like his family.
The day he killed a young man holding a grenade was a turning point in his life: That day I knew something had forever changed inside me. I felt a hole within me that had no bottom, an infinite void that could never be replenished. For weeks after the incident, my mind could not shake off the images of the young man walking, and breathing, and then down on the ground, bloody, and dead. I once spoke with a therapist about this event. I described the incident, providing details, and explaining how
with them as we are mutually transformed in the process. Many religious communities have historical traditions that have long understood the suffering of soldiers and the moral transgressions that threaten souls, not just in the individual but also in the whole community. Traditions too focused on judgment and punishment of wrong doers or too facile in answering core questions about evil offer little and can even aggravate moral injury. But people of faith who are willing to wade into the
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moral injury in war is ancient. It haunts the lives of former soldiers. Mac Camillo “Mac” Bica, a Marine veteran and a philosopher who focuses on social/political theory and ethics, particularly as they relate to war, has struggled with moral injury since he fought in Vietnam. He is still active in the veteran community and meets regularly with fellow vets. We first encountered Mac from articles he had written discussing the Iraq War at online sites such as Truthout and AlterNet. His