What Sisters and Oblates Are Reading

What have we done?

by David Wood
Little, Brown, Co

Sister Marlene Bertke

What Have We Done: the moral injury of the longest wars is not a book you pick up and settle down to read for an hour or two. It examines the little understood experience of those whom we send to war: moral injury.

Moral injury: a violation of the fundamental values of right and wrong that occurs to combat veterans when they have to make split second decisions on an action. i.e. they are faced with whether or not to shoot a young person while not knowing if they are an enemy and will shoot them if allowed to live, or an innocent who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A chaplain in Iraq held a ceremony for troops ending their yearlong stay, hoping to cleanse them from the guilt over what they had done in combat. He had them all write on index cards what they wanted to leave behind from their 12 months in combat. He put the cards in a bowl and they burned them. The chaplain was afraid that they were all contaminated by what they had seen and done and that their “moral wounds,” moral guilt, would stay with them for decades.

We are all familiar with PTSD but have we struggled yet with the far more persistent but less understood moral injury that comes from the violation of our fundamental values of right and wrong which happen to the combatant in modern warfare?

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