Helping Veterans Recover from 'Moral Injury' After War

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On the battlefield and on base, the tradition in the military has always been to have a man of God -- a military chaplain -- standing by. But was this a comforting role or an assurance to the soldiers from an officer that God was on their side in the fight? 

Historian Doris Bergen says the idea of a military chaplain as a moral counselor is a new one. In the Vietnam War, for example, "For many soldiers, chaplains were viewed not their supporters at all but potentially as their adversaries -- people like the military psychologist who were responsible for patching them up and sending them back out," she told The Takeaway.

In 2012, though with America at war on 2 fronts, the rate of military suicide hit a new high with 349 deaths over the course of the year.  That's one suicide every 25 hours.  Could it be a sign that soldiers may not be getting the spiritual counseling they really need after the trauma of war?

When Reverend Rita Nakashima Brock was a teenager and her  father returned from serving in the Vietnam war, he was different: “cold, controlling and angry," They would remain estranged til his death. Many years later, Rita’s work as a theologian led her to a revelation about her dad. It has planted the seed for her life's work.

Brock is now Co-Director of Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School and co-author of “Soul Repair: Recovery from Moral Injury After War.”  Michael Yandell, a student at the Brite seminary and Iraqi war veteran is also interested in the concept of "moral injury."


Rita Nakashima Brock and Michael Yandell

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

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