After the Yellow Ribbon Conference

This weekend I attended the After the Yellow Ribbon conference at the Duke Divinity School. 

Put together by OIF-vet, conscientious objector, and Duke Divinity student Logan Mehl-Laituri and fellow Divinity student Alaina Kleinbeck, it was an interdisciplinary event that included ecclesial, medical (mental health) and military perspectives in conversation devoted to helping veterans make sense of the moral reality of war.

I learned something from everyone there. The speakers who inspired me the most were Dr Warren Kinghorn (from the Veterans Admin and Duke) and Dr David Miller, a fair-minded and well-spoken pacifist.  I was privileged to give the keynote address and later have the opportunity to give my presentaton on "the moral justification for killing in war" to the majority-pacifist audience.

The goal of the event was to come together, talk honestly and listen openly, and find common ground so we all can help heal those vets who experienced moral injury in war. IMHO, it succeeded beautifully.  This conference showed me that just warists and war pacifists can come together productively.


Andrew Bell said...

I agree-- it was an amazing conference (and sadly the all-too-rare one) that brought together just war theorists, pacifists, servicemembers, medical experts and concerned others in a spirit of civility and mutual care.

My burning question now is: How do we (the military/academic/theological/medical/those-who-care-about war communities) duplicate this type of event into a common, or to be hopeful, standard practice of discussion within American society?

It's a hollow victory to declare "peace with honor" among the participants and have all those concerned about war's impact then return to their respective insulated communities. That leaves no lasting effect for the military or the country.

The one thing I took away from the conference is that all these respective communities wish to serve those who suffer war's effects (both in and outside of the military) in love.

For this conference to have any real meaning, we need to answer this question: how do we spread this message to the military academies, training centers, bases, theological schools, hospitals, churches and communities of America? How does this type of discussion become a common practice around the country? I want to see a hundred “After the Yellow Ribbon” Conferences, journals incorporating all these voices, regular monthly meetings for the leaders of these different groups… how do we make that a reality?

princezhthr said...

Hello Pete, I am not sure if you even check your blog anymore. But I am an undergrad about to do my Honors Thesis. I am studying Psychology and have an interest in moral reasoning. I also am a United States Army veteran, served in Operation Enduring Freedom I, and Operation Iraqi Freedom II. I would love to do my thesis on moral reasoning and veterans of wars and examine cognitive factors. I am looking for some helpful research articles that may assist me in doing this. If you know of any that my be helpful could you let me know~~!

Thanks Heather

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

I'm a journalist interested in hearing more about your experiences at the conference. Could we talk about it? My email address is



dental advices said...

killing in wars is sometimes difficult to defend in terms of morality. how can killing be moral? maybe through preventing some more lives to be wasted.

Pete Kilner said...

Dental: read this blogpost for a basic explanation of the conditions when it's morally permissible (and sometimes even required) to kill someone.

The Military Leader’s Role in Mitigating Moral Injury

War is a breeding ground for moral injury. Even in a justified [1] war that is fought justly, combat soldiers are likely to intentional...