English: A folded American flag held by a United States Marine at the funeral of Douglas A. Zembiec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have never served in the military. I have had family and in-laws who served this country in a variety of capacities though the armed forces. Now more than ever, the public is keenly aware of the movements and campaigns of the US military are leading in the Middle East and around the world. New stations cover a returning solider, coming back home to a throng of people cheering and waving US flags; we get choked up when we see a solider surprising their family; we stand and clap during sporting events when a service person is recognized on the jumbo-tron.
While all of these things are wonderful expressions of thankfulness and gratitude, what about what is going on in the inside of the solider, inside their mind, their heart and their soul? Can one ever understand what life is like in service to the country? Can one ever understand the what life is like in the line of fire? to shoot a gun? to have bombs go off near you? to lose a friend? to kill someone?
How does one (if ever) reintegrate into a fast paced, self centered, on the go American society?
The book Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War takes a look at the notion of moral injury in returning combat veterans.
Moral injury results from having to make difficult moral choices under extreme conditions, experiencing morally anguishing events or duties, witnessing immoral acts, or behaving in ways that profoundly challenge moral conscience and identity and the values that support them. Moral injury is found in feelings of survivor guilt, grief, shame, remorse, anger, despair, mistrust, and betrayal by authorities. In its most severe forms, it can destroy moral identity and the will to live. The struggle of combat veterans to return to civilian life can be even more difficult than serving in war and last a lifetime. (taken from http://www.brite.edu/soulrepair/)
The book profiles five different soldiers from different campaigns that the US has been involved with and their struggle with their own morality and faith and how their soul was injured during their deployment. The book is written by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini who both had family member serve in combat; both articulate that their loved ones were not the same people after their deployments.
This is an eye opening book to the pains and injury (not just physical) that combat has. I guess sub conscientiously knew it but I never connected the dots. This text brings moral injury to the forefront, to a place where we as a society and nation are faced with it. By hearing the stories of struggle and pain that the soldiers went through the reader is taken to a different place, into a world that most of us are not privy to.
The book states that returning combat vets are at a statsically greater risk for suicide and violence; this leads many to think that the pangs of war and combat are deeper than just what is reported on television.
Soul Repair does not hold back on its critique of the Veterans Administration and the US government for not support returning veterans.
Moral injury results when soldiers violate their core moral beliefs, and in evaluating their behoavior negatively, they feel they no longer live in a reliable, meaningful world and can no longer be regarded as decent human beings. (page XV)
Veterans who struggle with moral injury are struggling to recover their lost sense of humanity, which they require to reintegrate into the human community. No easy shortcut can bring them home. (page 54)
Engaging in collective conversations about moral injury and war can help us all to strengthen the moral fabric of society and the connections that tie us to the rest of the world. Our collective engagement with moral injury will teach us more about the impact of our actions and choices on each other, enable us to see the world from other perspectives and chart pathways for our future. (page 114)
The Disciples of Christ in 2011 voted to look into the notion of moral injury and how the church can help veterans from all campaigns with moral injury. Thanks to a grant Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas opened the Soul Repair Center.
I support the work of the Soul Repair Center and I pray that it will be used for the healing and restoration of all people who are faced with moral injury. The authors note that the church used to assist with the transition of those returning from war who had “shed human blood.” They had to undergo “a rehabilitation process that included reverting to the status of someone who had not yet been baptized and was undergoing training in Christian faith. … this ancient form of quarantine was required because early Christians understood that killing or participating in war, regardless of of the reasons, injured the souls of those how fought. (page xviii)”
I recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a member of their family in military combat, no matter how long ago. Moral injury is something that has been with humanity ever since the first war broke out.
5 out of 5 stars