Invisible injuries inflict psychological pain that can drive sufferers to end their lives. Although many of these invisible injuries are now well-known, there is a new name for a timeless problem that has affected millions, under the radar.
In recent years, moral injury has come to be defined as a profound sense of guilt or shame resulting from a perceived moral transgression or sense of disillusionment resulting from an institutional betrayal.
It is no surprise that moral injury is a major problem among those who find themselves in the fog of war, fighting for survival, having to make snap life or death decisions; Is the car barreling toward the camp a suicide bomber or a lost and frantic civilian? Or on a broader level, are we actually helping the people we were supposedly sent to help?
Those who are sent to do our nations dirty work are also often burdened by the crushing moral weight of bearing the conscience of a nation. War exposes the best and worst in humanity. Although we like to celebrate the valor, bravery, and altruism with metals and parades, our nation of civilians and political elites are not nearly as quick to confront the messy moral reality of its conflicts and the impact it may have on those who bear its burden.
Moral injury occurs when a person blames themselves for an incident they did not have control over. In order to encourage healing, we need to confront the issue publicly by listening to those on the front lines of our nations foreign policy. Rather than blaming themselves, the national conscience needs to process the complicated moral reality of war.
Those who fight our nations battles must come to see themselves within a complicated social environment that is impossible to navigate with certainty. As stated in a previous post: the need to make a decision in the fog of war is something that happens to an individual. Specialist Joe Caley, U.S. Army. 1st Cavalry, 25th Infantry realized his lack of agency, stating: “It’s not what I did in the war, it’s what the war did to me. That was a self-revelation.”