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‘Moral Injury’: When Soldiers Betray Their Sense Of Right And Wrong

Veterans who have been a part of something that betrays their sense of right and wrong often find themselves grappling with what researchers are only now beginning to understand – something that PTSD doesn’t quite capture. They call it “moral injury.” It’s not a diagnosis, but an explanation for many veterans’ emotional responses to their experiences of war.

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This illustrated story is part of our series, ‘Moral Injury’: An Invisible Wound Of War, a collaboration between WBUR and American Public Media’s Public Insight Network. We continue our series on Monday with the story of former Marine Corps Capt. Tyler Boudreau and his struggle to understand years of pain that medicine and therapy for PTSD didn’t address.

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  • alexMass

    What an great piece. The illustration is beautiful.

  • Wounded Times Blog

    This is really good! It is not always what they had to do that causes the most harm. Often it is forgetting why they did it. They forget they were not so much trying to kill as much as they were trying to save the lives of those they were with. When they start to think of themselves as having done something “evil” they can begin to see themselves that way. We need to remind them of the original intent and there was nothing evil in being willing to risk their lives for someone else, even if it meant they had to do something they wish they hadn’t. I hope a lot of people see what you have here!

  • R_ H1

    In the last screen, it seems like contact or resources info is missing. It says, if you are or know a veteran in need of help, please go here. but there is no link or contact info there…. Where is the “please go here” phrase supposed to link to?

    • http://bit.ly/aayesha Aayesha Siddiqui

      The link goes here: Building a community of support: Great resources for veterans online

      It seems to work in Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Are you using another browser?

      • Diane Hendrix

        why does it not work with ALL as in Safari which is what most Apple users use?

        @mbebinger I woke up to this series and martha beginger’s WONDERFUL report from the Marine who’s now an author. Incredible work, team! THANK you. please see WHY WE FIGHT [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO7-GBRx1xM ] about the US addiction to war, presaged by Eisenhower. We are in big trouble. Why is war so easily accepted worldwide? All animal species do not fight. Chimps do, bonobos do not.

  • SuAnTu

    I have researched that meds for ADHD are given out like candy to our young soldiers. This is on top of the use of the med in grade schools, high schools, and in college where readily available from many sources. Then add steroid use to this, as in many workout venues available, coupled with the latest news re damaged quality steroids ( from a laboratory in Framingham Mass for one) sometimes being even lethal…I say that the young vets who come home to the selfish, media immersed culture which they left but are no longer a part have a snowballs chance at being balanced. The people returning from battle in WWII Vietnam and Korea were never so isolated both physically and mentally. It’s like returning from Mars to Venus.

  • He’Ary

    We teach children and young people to stifle tendencies to violence, notwithstanding the incessant brainwashing glorifying violence performed by films and TV shows, military shows, and the video games that teach to kill kill kill with a mere inconsequential thumb motion. Amazingly, sometimes the Judeo-Christian education to civilized behavior, the settling of differences calmly, the honoring of people because they are people, respecting wide varieties of opinion, actually does take hold. The outcome is that when soldiers are taught to strip away this humanity from their personality, sometimes it works only partially, only apparently, only temporarily.

  • Janne Butler

    Great illustrations- but, men and women, let’s not forget PTSD and battered women- I’ve been in treatment for 15 years for combat level PTSD as a result of a 22 year marriage of severe abuse- and don’t ask me that asinine question “Why didn’t you leave?” I finally did, terminating the marriage immediately in 1997, but only with massive financial, legal, medical, and psychiatric help- yes, my husband almost killed me, but staying alive and dealing with the PTSD and the moral injury has sometimes made me wish for death- just to get a rest from the excruciating mental and emotional pain. But I am a stronger warrior than I have ever been in my life because of it all…