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Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After Warby Rita Nakashima Brock
Synopses & Reviews
The first book to explore the idea and effect of moral injury on veterans, their families, and their communities
Although veterans make up only 7 percent of the U.S. population, they account for an alarming 20 percent of all suicides. And though treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has undoubtedly alleviated suffering and allowed many service members returning from combat to transition to civilian life, the suicide rate for veterans under thirty has been increasing. Research by Veterans Administration health professionals and veterans’ own experiences now suggest an ancient but unaddressed wound of war may be a factor: moral injury. This deep-seated sense of transgression includes feelings of shame, grief, meaninglessness, and remorse from having violated core moral beliefs.
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, who both grew up in families deeply affected by war, have been working closely with vets on what moral injury looks like, how vets cope with it, and what can be done to heal the damage inflicted on soldiers’ consciences. In Soul Repair, the authors tell the stories of four veterans of wars from Vietnam to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—Camillo “Mac” Bica, Herman Keizer Jr., Pamela Lightsey, and Camilo Mejía—who reveal their experiences of moral injury from war and how they have learned to live with it. Brock and Lettini also explore its effect on families and communities, and the community processes that have gradually helped soldiers with their moral injuries.
Soul Repair will help veterans, their families, members of their communities, and clergy understand the impact of war on the consciences of healthy people, support the recovery of moral conscience in society, and restore veterans to civilian life. When a society sends people off to war, it must accept responsibility for returning them home to peace.
"In this appeal to Americans to take more seriously the psychic wounds of war and high suicide rate of veterans, Brock (Saving Paradise) and Lettini (Homosexuality) move beyond post-traumatic stress disorder to what they understand as a distinct category of injury: the moral toll of war. Ordinary people with everyday consciences often become deeply troubled when they have to kill, even for 'good' reasons, and especially when the victims are women and children in ill-defined war zones. While PTSD can be cured or resolved through psychotherapy, moral wounds often become more acute as soldiers recover from traumatic stress. The authors question the efficacy of rationalizing away moral injury — should we not instead interrogate what it means for humans to violate their consciences? The book lets veterans tell their stories. Each veteran has a distinct social location — e.g., white, black, or Latino, Vietnam or Iraq war vet — but their sagas tend to melt together. The book's strength lies, however, not in the narratives but in the authors' eloquent and unflinching discourse on war's problematic moral core." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In 2009, a group of VA mental health professionals published an article on the idea that soldiers returning from war may suffer not only from PTSD, but from "moral injury" as well. PTSD, of course, is a medical term; it is formally considered an anxiety disorder, and treatment of PTSD focuses on the use of antidepressants and therapy. PTSD is not discussed, and certainly not treated, in terms of the ethics and consciences of those who are in war zones. The VA psychologists, trying to make sense of what they were seeing among returning vets that PTSD did not seem to cover, described an extreme distress brought about by "perpetrating, failing to prevent, or being witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations." They concluded that vets often suffer from PTSD and also moral injury.
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, who both grew up in families deeply affected by war, have been working closely with vets on the idea of moral injury — what it looks like, how vets cope with it, and what can be done to heal the damage inflicted on soldiers' consciences. In Soul Repair, the authors tell the stories of five veterans of wars from Vietnam to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to show their experiences of moral injury, their experiences upon returning home from war, questions of reparations, learning to live with moral injury, its effect on families, and the community and ritual processes that have gradually helped them with their moral injuries. In addition to describing the concept of moral injury, the book will discuss multiple approaches to dealing with moral injury and will include a resources section.
Soul Repair is a book for veterans, their families, medical professionals who are treating them, and the vets' religious communities who are seeking to help returning veterans readjust to civilian life and cope with their sense of moral injury.
About the Author
Rita Nakashima Brock is research professor and codirector of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth, Texas. She is the author, with Rebecca Ann Parker, ofProverbs of Ashes and Saving Paradise. She lives in Oakland, California.
Gabriella Lettini is Dean of the faculty and Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of Theological Ethics and Studies in Public Ministry at Starr King School for the Ministry–Graduate Theological Union. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: I Became a Soldier
Chapter 2: Killing Changes You
Chapter 3: Coming Home is Hell
Chapter 4: I Will Live with Moral Injury the Rest of My Life
Chapter 5: Soul Repair
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