Veterans Fight Moral Injury

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Memories: That`s the problem that we face.

I don`t eat out of paper plates. That`s a reminder, you know? Because I was eating out a paper plate one day and chopper come in and blew my food out of my hand.

We all try to look for a way to forget.

SGT. JAMES RINEHART AND SGT. CHARLES ROBERTSON BOTH SERVED IN THE VIETNAM WAR. IT`S BEEN NEARLY FIVE DECADES NOW BUT SOME INJURIES STILL REMAIN.

Moral injury has to do with violation of one`s innermost beliefs and it happens in the context of the pressures of war. Not just being part of the brutality but it has to do with perpetration issues: witnessing and not being able to do anything about events that are out of one`s control, that have to do with moral violations and then coming back and feeling deep shame, humiliation and personal condemnation. One not only isolates but one can never forgive oneself.

OF MILITARY MEN AND WOMEN WHO GO TO WAR, DOCTOR BAIR SAYS 27 PERCENT REPORT FEELING THEIR VALUES HAVE BEEN VIOLATED AND NEARLY 20 PERCENT FEEL THEY`RE RESPONSIBLE FOR DEATH.

I noticed the moral injury probably as I began to have a family. It kind of brought to light the things that I did. I feel condemned because of it. Just thinking about it makes me sick.

THE YEAR WAS 1967. JAMES WAS JUST 19 YEARS OLD.

I happened to be part of an interrogation team, worked with a Chu-hoi. Let`s call him a turncoat for lack of better terms. He was quite brutal. Because of group mentality, when you get into things like that, I kind of followed suit.

I got drafted 1966. I was 20 years old. It broke my heart. You go against your religion, you do a lot of things that you`re not supposed to do. You weren`t taught to do these things but in a survival mode, you`ll do just about anything. Some of the things you see: women dying with babies in their arms or burning up people`s villages, you`ll never forget that. But that`s war. You can`t paint a beauty picture out of war.

THE EXPRESSIVE ARTS PROGRAM AT THE CAPTAIN JAMES A. LOVELL FEDERAL HEALTH CARE CENTER AIMS TO HELP VETERANS PAINT A NEW PICTURE: ONE OF HOPE AND HEALING.

What we do with expressive arts is we use music, we use joke telling and storytelling and narratives as a way of reaching new states of mind. We call it hyper quiescence. Music is part of calming and arousing so that people can remember the positive and they can access social abilities.

FOR VETERANS SUFFERING FROM MORAL INJURY, THE FIGHT IS ONGOING AND SUPPORT IS CRUCIAL.

Things have changed for me considerably because I come here. We have great times here: a lot of singers, lot of musicians, and it relaxes you.

We`re lucky. We`re lucky to have a place to come to get help.

I`m back to trying to be me, 40 years later.

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