Moral injury: Troops talk of how war assaults conscience

Military Times

Patricia Kime

Former Army Reserve Capt. Josh Grenard thought the anguish of losing men in  combat would eventually wane in the years after a deployment to Iraq. But when soldiers from his unit began committing suicide, the wounds reopened — fresh, raw and painful.

“It’s almost two sets of injuries — but having your men kill themselves is wholly different,” Grenard said. “Was there something I could have done? Was there a way we could have gotten them help? Should I have seen it?”

He found himself slipping into isolation, going to his law office each day but questioning his very existence. He drank from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily — “very metered, all day.”

“You don’t want to think about anything. You don’t want to answer those questions,” he said.

Grenard was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the psychiatric condition normally associated with combat.

Rather, his feelings, which included crippling helplessness, emotional pain, guilt and frustration, are often described as “moral injury,” a psychological condition related to having done something wrong, being wronged by others or even witnessing a wrongdoing, argues Georgetown University philosophy professor Nancy Sherman. [Full Text]

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