From Bill Edmonds’ “God Is Not Here.”
I open my eyes, and Saedi is bent over the still-crying prisoner. He whispers in his ear, and cigarette smoke escapes his nose to float up in the air and twirl around the one hanging light bulb. I hear more sobs, which become suckling whimpers.
I feel a deep loss.
I need to escape.
I must escape, or I will become lost.
I quickly leave the cell and climb the stairs to the room. Outside, the sun is just beginning to rise.
From Eric Newhouse’s “Healing Moral Injury.”
I felt very guilty," Jack told me. "There are things I did that I feel very guilty about. I was brought up right, brought up to do right, but in war the compassion is not there. Human beings were not made to kill each other. I saw some soldiers who just could not pull the trigger on an adversary face to face, and they died. After all the depravity of war was over, I was afraid people would know what I was, so I just ran away from it.
From Chester Nez’s “Code Talker.”
I tried to relax, to return to my past self, but my memories were not peaceful like those of my grandparents, father, siblings, and extended family. And the quiet grew increasingly disturbing and unreal....
The Japanese enemy populated my dreams, continuing to plague me even when I was awake. Our invasions of hostile islands played like an endless film in my head, with me and my buddies exposed to enemy fire as we struggled toward thebeach....
All that blood I had walked through had stained my mind. Just as the island fighting had trapped us soldiers, never letting us get away from the battles, keeping us scared twenty-four hours a day, the devil spirits of my dead enemiesnowtrappedme,neverlettingmeenjoyanypeace.Myfamilyagreedthatifthingscontinued astheywere,the Japanese would eventually take me away. I needed a ceremony. They would put up an Enemy Way.
From Tyler Boudreau’s “The Morally Injured.”
The problem for now is that while “Moral Injury” is gaining traction in the public discourse, it is still viewed by the VA and the military as a medical issue and those who suffer from it as “patients.” ... The goal for now is to get the idea of "Moral Injury" out there, get it heard, get it recognized universally as a wound that must be healed communally, not medically.
From Sean Levine’s “Legal War, Sin, and ‘Moral Injury’ in the Age of Modern Warfare”
What do we need? We need rituals in which war veterans and civilian citizens work together to mutually own war trauma. We need contexts in which war veterans can tell their stories without the risk of being “shut down” because those listening will not hear them out to the bitter, painful end. We need citizens, pastors, priests, therapists, and others who will not argue with a warrior’s sense of moral guilt, spiritual taint, soul-death, emotional numbness, and emotional rage by waving flags, spouting patriotic nonsense, and appealing to just causes and justified killing in order to deflect the moral evil of America’s wars. We need an American society that looks down at its collective hands and sees blood; not only on the warriors, but on the hands of every citizen and non-citizen living within the protection of America’s military.... We need to stop telling our warriors they have nothing to be ashamed of and start listening to their shame, their guilt, their loss, their inner emptiness. We do not listen to such tales because they threaten our illusions and assault our easy-won comfort, but we should listen, and in listening, we should help carry, own, share, and grieve rather than deny the burdens of war.