Moral Injury – the Silent Wound of War

Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben
Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben

How does a 19-year-old Marine work through the reality of killing a young 13-year-old Afghan boy because the boy was shooting at his battle buddies during an intense fire fight?  Or, how about the 26-year-old Air Force pilot who a thousand of miles away from Yemen fires a missile from a drone and then sees a body twisting and contorting from the result of the blast?  Or, the Army Specialist in Iraq who had been briefed on the threat of suicide bombers in his area of operations, had to make a quick decision when a woman continues to walk toward his position even after repeatedly shouted “stop” in Persian.

These three experiences reflect the aspect of war not often seen by the public.  Also, often not seen are the realities of war that resulted in many of our veterans experiencing a silent wound where the battlefield became a test of the soul.  As the warrior confronted the horrors of war they may have experienced the invisible wounds of mind and spirit.

The US Navy Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben recently spoke at a conference on the Role of Spiritual Care to Heal Moral Injury.  She spoke about the importance of partnering in soul repair with religious and mental health providers.  In her remarks, she stated,

“Volumes have been written on post-traumatic stress in the combat environment.  While we focus on the obvious and immediate physical and psychological impact an event has had on an individual, we are less inclined to see, at least until recently, the spiritual impact of the event.  We’ve moved from the discussions on PTSD and combat operational stress to moral injury, considering the whole experience and its impact on the whole person-body, mind, and spirit.”

Chaplain Kibben unfolds for the reader the impact of faith as lived out with authenticity in an act of service that becomes the sacred, that invites a person to trust, and thereby fosters the beginning of a journey toward healing.

Click here to read her full remarks on the Chaplain Corps website.


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