From Vietnam Veterans Against the War, http://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=4188
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And Then Your Soul Is Gone: Moral Injury and US War-Culture
by Kelly Denton-Borhaug
(Equinox Publishing, 2021)
I am writing this because I think this book is important for all of us who knew when we got out of the military, when we left war behind, that something was different. Something did not fit. We did not fit. Even if we were not injured or subjected to a traumatic event, we felt different. We were different.
I found out about her work on moral injury during a session of the Veterans for Peace convention. I convinced her to come on my Podcast, Veterans for Peace Radio Hour (Sound Cloud and Spotify)to talk about moral injury. You can find that discussion here: soundcloud.com/user-55976759/111722-veterans-for-peace-with-dr-kelly-denton-borhaug-on-moral-injury-and-us-war-culture
Reading her book made me realize and identify some of the demons I was carrying with me. The VA had diagnosed me with PTSD but I could not recall the incident, event, experience that put me over the edge. However, I knew that something had happened to me. Why did I break down when the NVA marched into Saigon in '75 and my realization of the waste became the reality? Why would I be hitting the ground at every backfire, even though I had never been in an actual combat situation? How come I had to walk out of Apocalypse Now to sit in the lobby of the theater smoking cigarettes while my wife and our friends watched the rest of the movie? Why did I have to turn my back when watching fireworks at our friend's lake house? Why would I wake up in cold sweats fearing my ship, the Westchester County, was heading back up the rivers? Why, to this day, do I have spells of crushing sadness?
Reading Dr. Borhaug's book about Moral Injury and especially about war culture opened up some truths and opened up some wounds that made me realize that not only I might be suffering from moral injury but maybe most of the country is also suffering. She used case studies, tons of research, and her own perspective of the United States to craft this book to uncover and identify the atrocity of moral injury.
It helped me pinpoint the series of experiences I had and to link them to the way I feel now and help me understand that even after 50 years, my feelings could be intensifying, that time does not heal all wounds. It helped me make a list of feelings, attitudes, actions and reactions that made me different that could all be linked back to my experience in the Navy and Vietnam.
She explains how the violent nature of the US War Culture has sacralized war making and military service. She shows how the military industrial complex, the media, our churches, our schools and our sports are participating and contributing to the elevation of this US War Culture. She shows how this seeps into every corner of our society and culture.
It is an easy and understandable read even while digging into the complexities of our militaristic psyche. It has helped me understand a little better what is going on within me and why after 50 years these feelings have actually grown. It encouraged me to find a local VA sponsored moral injury group. I really cannot encourage you enough to read this book and share it with those who may not understand your feelings but want to try.
About the author: Dr Kelly Denton-Borhaug is Professor in the Global Religions Department at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. The book was published by Equinox. She has been investigating moral injury, writing about it, listening to veterans, and working with veterans' groups for over seven years. She has published in the Nation, TomDispatch, Scheerpost, and other platforms. Her book, And Then Your Soul is Gone: Moral Injury and US War-Culture, has been used by veterans to better understand the deep impact of war and war-culture in their lives. She also works with veterans. If you are interested in developing a veterans or civilian "discussion group" in your area to learn and talk about moral injury, you can contact her at email@example.com. For more about Kelly Denton-Borhaug, who is a university professor, go to www.moravian.edu/religion/faculty/denton-borhaug
Jim Wohlgemuth was on the USS Westchester County LST 1167 from 1969 to 1971. He was on the USS Point Defiance LSD 31 from 1971 to 1972. He is a retired Federal employee and Middle School Social Studies Teacher. He is co-host of the Veterans for Peace Radio hour on Radio Free Nashville, Spotify, SoundCloud and Pacifica radio.
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