Resolving moral damage: dealing with the fallout from the war in Afghanistan | Item
MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. – I was deployed for 15 months in 2008 and 2009. There, traveling in the battlespace, I relied on local nationals and interpreters to get me in; I don’t speak Pashto or Dari. In return for that, we told them – not just me – we told them that after doing this you can come to America. Fast forward more than a decade later, we are withdrawing. No one I know personally, but nonetheless, the local nationals who helped the Americans, to whom the same promise was made, are being left behind. You hear stories of the Taliban executing them. So with that, a lot of the military, myself included, feel a sense of guilt with it and what do we call it? We call it a moral wound.
What is moral damage? Damage caused to a person’s conscience or moral compass when a person commits or witnesses or fails to prevent acts that violate their own moral fiber or their ethical code of conduct or values. So we make a promise – we’ll make your life better, you can come to America – and not only is it broken, but you and your family could very well die for doing this.
What are some examples of things that can cause hurt feelings?
– Use of lethal force in combat or during combat causing injury or death to civilians or to women and children.
– Give orders in combat that result in the death of a soldier, someone for whom you are responsible.
– Chilling with fear, because combat is a scary place and you never know what you’re going to do – no one knows. Freeze in fear and fail to provide medical help to a person on the left or the right and maybe they will die.
– Back home after a deployment and hearing the executions of those who cooperated with you – local nationals – either right away or, in this case, a decade later, much like what is happening currently.
What are the consequences of moral damage?
Moral injury can lead to severe distress, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It can take the lives of those who suffer from it, literally and figuratively. It can weaken people, preventing them from living full and healthy lives. Moral wounds are damage to the soul. So you can’t see it. But, you can see signs of it.
What does it look like?
It often sounds like heartache, shame, and outrage. People lose confidence in themselves and their moral foundations, their relationships can be disrupted. They cannot trust others not to judge them. People can isolate themselves or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, causing physical and relationship problems that can very well quickly lead to depression and suicidal / suicidal thoughts.
What to do in the event of moral prejudice?
First, it is to recognize it in the same way, just as we recognize physical and mental trauma. So what do we do ? In the military, chaplains and counselors are often on the front lines in dealing with moral wounds. The Madigan Ministry and Pastoral Care Department is here to serve you. When you speak to a military chaplain, your session is privileged and confidential. This level of privileged communication and confidentiality is granted only to military chaplains. Everything you say out of conscience is confidential. Chaplains are the only profession who are not commissioned journalists – the whole hospital is, we are not. It’s true no matter what is said. Military chaplains are the only ones who can have this kind of communication, and they are all military chaplains.
Help and recovery starts with recognizing that you need help and then asking for help. And then we’re here to help.
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