Perhaps the worst wound of war is the injury to veterans’ moral consciences. They participated in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands, enemy or not. Killing is something that nearly no one desires to do. It is abhorrent to almost everyone. Veterans that participate in war carry a particularly heavy weight. They have to do things that can injure their souls.
Certainly snipers must deal with this. Too often in these recent wars children with weapons have been their targets. I know of one sniper that was unable to stop the firing from three windows of a building that had already killed 3 Marines. The sniper and his squad were instructed to blow the building with ribbon grenades. When they went inside they discovered it was a daycare filled with small children. Three older students, probably around 12 years old, had been firing from the windows. The Captain who ordered this attack lost his mind. After seeing the carnage, a devout Christian soldier shot himself in the head. The rest of the squad live with this every day.
Eventually, the sensitivity to images and sounds of combat will fade away. Their nervous systems will repair. But it is the memories of being involved in an act that repulses their moral consciences that will be the hardest and most difficult to heal. A wound to one’s soul is the major issue of combat PTSD.
It does not need to be this personal and up close of an encounter to inflict a wound in a combat soldier’s mind. Artillery soldiers that get coordinates and fire huge rounds of explosives that do massive damage and kill many also suffer from a tortured moral conscience. Even though they may not see the results of their salvos, they still know what happened. They see the reports. – Pilots, sailors on ships, and even those fighting a remote control war from a safe chair on a secure base, perhaps from within the U.S. also are plagued by the weight of moral responsibility their duties and orders have left them to deal with.
This is the cause of most of our veteran suicides. Seeking punishment, even hoping for an eternity in Hell, is not an uncommon thought. It is an honest and sincere desire of many such veterans. Talking to them about forgiveness is a very difficult and often impossible task. Being told that “You were just following orders” means little or nothing to them. They still see themselves as guilty.
Every American inherits a deep responsibility when we allow our government to declare a war and to send our young men and women to do the dirty work. The Iraq War is over, for now. Our soldiers have returned home. It is our national moral obligation to do everything we can to heal our brave men and women who volunteered to risk their lives in fighting these wars.
Always show respect to a US veteran, particularly those that had a part to play in combat. We share in the moral accountability of US veterans. No civilian should turn their back and say, “That’s their problem.” We are a government of the people and by the people. We all played a part.
Every US citizens should let our veterans know that you care about them. Be ready, willing and eager to be there for them. Give them a big hug when you can. Love our US veterans. They need it more now than ever!