Healing from Moral Injury: Teaching the Way of Peace

“Moral Injury” was named by Jonathan Shay in his 1994 book, “Achilles in Vietnam,” but when I talk to veterans of earlier wars about it, they get it. The concept makes sense.

I see it in this interview article with Paul Pappas, a Marine Corps veteran of WW2 who is the oldest member of the Bruderhof community. And he also reveals his path to healing.

“’I landed in Nagasaki six weeks after the bomb was dropped. And I said, “Why did we have to drop a second bomb? Wasn’t it clear?”‘ That gratuitous destruction crushed his faith in almost everything. ‘When I came out of the military, I was very angry and bitter and cynical. I had no purpose in life. There just didn’t seem to be any meaning to it.’ The one thing he was sure of was that ‘war was never right. Never. It would never produce what you want, and that is peace.'”

I’ve heard some military members suggest that the way to deal with Moral Injury is to teach Just War, and to reinforce in the minds of warfighters a moral justification for violence. But Paul’s story is the opposite. Don’t teach that war is right. Accept that it is immoral. Teach forgiveness–and peace.