Our Social Obligation To Veterans
There is nothing romantic or casual about war. It is as John Stuart Mill stated, “an ugly thing.” For as long as there has been mankind, there has been war regardless if it’s a one-on-one conflict or nation against nation. The “ugly” truth is that we will never be free of it entirely. However, we can as a society be willing and prepared to welcome back those who endure this ugly thing we call warfare.
As individuals, we may not necessarily have a direct impact on when, where, or who our nation enters into conflict, however there is an inherent responsibility in all of us to better understand the warfighter, the impact of war on these individuals, and how we can assist in their return to society.
Too Much For Any Single Agency
For those closest to the problem, it is very apparent that the larger governmental agencies such as the Veterans Administration, established and designed to care for and manage the unique needs of our nations warfighters, are not adequately resourced or structured to fully accommodate the daunting tasks required.
Having worked with and spoken with many of our nations warfighters over the years, it is evident that the majority of hurdles affecting their assimilation back into mainstream society are not a result of their experiences in war, but more associated with their experiences while returning from it.
First and foremost, not everyone who dons a uniform and returns home is broken or suffering with visible or invisible scars. Oftentimes, a negative stigma is placed on those who return by the very bureaucratic agencies in-place to assist. Additionally, in an effort to drive awareness, the volume of publications in recent years regarding Post-Traumatic Stress (Disorder) has driven many to believe that all military members suffer from PTSD and are postured to snap at any time.
It is true that between 11-20% of Post-911 veterans suffer some level of PTSD. As a society, we need to work diligently to cast away any negative stigma or judgements regarding returning from war. After all, hasn’t society worked to turn away from negative ideas of ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and race? There are many who suffer trauma in life. Do we negatively label all who have been exposed to a traumatic event and find themselves working through the residual effects, either physical or psychological?
Statistics of veteran homelessness and suicide are staggering. Understanding a simple fact can help eliminate the majority of this growing epidemic: they are not broken! Veterans have proven to be some of the most capable, loyal, resilient, determined men and women of our generation. They willingly serve those in need yet often have trouble seeking help for themselves when in need. Veterans have founded numerous organizations in an effort to support their own, knowing that the government is falling short in that regard.
Understand Moral Injury
Moral Injury is often defined today as damage done to one’s conscience or “moral compass” when the person conducts, witnesses, or fails to prevent such acts that transgress moral beliefs, values or ethics. In the context of military service and specially the experiences of war, this “moral injury” often refers to the long-lasting emotional, psychological, social, behavioral and spiritual impacts on the individual.
This concept is not new, as people across the ages have wrestled with the ethical dilemmas related to war. However, this moral injury has increasingly gained focus and study as it is beginning to explain several facets of the mental health diagnosis, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Examples Of Events Leading To Moral Injury
Using deadly force in combat or causing harm or death of civilians knowingly without alternatives, or accidentally.
Giving orders that result in the injury or death of a fellow service-member.
Failing to provide medical aid to an injured service-member or civilian.
Failing to report knowledge of sexual assault or rape committed against oneself, a fellow service-member, or civilians.
Following orders that were illegal, immoral, and against the Rules of Engagement.
A change in belief about the necessity or justification for war, during or after one’s service.