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Showing posts from November, 2016

War can be an Experience of both Heaven and Hell

Many combat veterans have a love/hate relationship with their wartime experiences. They love the profound sense of purpose that their lives had; they hate the senseless evil that necessitated the war. They love the unity they experienced with their fellow soldiers; they hate the destruction they witnessed and sometimes unleashed.
Wars are visible, political conflicts that spawn invisible, moral conflicts within those who fight them.What combat veteran doesn’t feel pride and exhilaration, disgust and anger?That’s a volatile brew of emotions—a cauldron that veterans must recognize and reconcile in order to integrate their wartime experiences into their personal life narratives.
I am a career Army officer who embedded with combat units and interviewed hundreds of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan over multiple deployments. I am also a Christian. In the course of my own struggle to integrate my identity as a soldier with my larger identity as a Christian, I gained an insight—one informed by …

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 intentionally kill enemy soldiers, unintentionally harm civilians, and witness levels of violence and senseless suffering that challenge their assumptions about their own moral goodness and the goodness of the world. When soldiers commit, fail to prevent, or witness acts in war that violate their own moral codes, they become susceptible to suffering long-term shame, anger, alienation, loss of religious belief, and other effects known as moral injury.[2]
In this article, I argue that moral injury in combat veterans can be mitigated by effective small-unit leadership. There are actions that leaders can take before, during, and after their units’ combat deployments that reduce the likelihood and magnitude of morally injurious experiences. Ethical leaders can train and lead their soldiers in ways that reduce the likelihood that their soldiers will commit immoral acts…