Samford University’s Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence (RCPE) is cosponsoring a workshop aimed at breaking the stigma of moral injury among veterans and their families, with particular focus on veteran suicide which currently averages 18 per day.
To be held at Montgomery’s First United Methodist Church Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 9 and 10, the program will feature presentations by veterans, a special performance of the acclaimed public health project Theater of War, and author of Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War, Rita Brock. Brock is founding co-director of the Soul Repair Center.
“Statistics do not disclose the devastating impact of war on veterans’ families and friends, on their communities, and on other veterans,” Brook writes in her book.
Also cosponsoring the event is Gateway To Hope, a coalition of chaplains, social workers and faith communities in Alabama, which seeks to educate the public about the consequences of the veteran’s spiritual wounds of war and its responsibility to support recovery.
According to RCPE director Michael Wilson, participants will learn about moral injury and its relationship to PTSD and challenges of military sexual trauma, and creating safe communities of support for veterans to tell their stories and reflect morally on them. They will also explore ways to reintegrate veterans into the civilian world, without leaving them to suffer invisibly and in silence.
Veterans Affairs clinicians have begun to conceptualize moral injury as separate from PTSD and as a “hidden wound of war,” Wilson noted. It names a deep and old dilemma of war that is the result of reflection on memories of war which transgress one’s basic moral identity and because of violated core moral beliefs.
Theater of War is an innovative public health project that presents readings of ancient Greek plays, Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes, as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and communities.
These events are aimed at fostering understanding and compassion, while mobilizing citizens and resources to help improve the lives of service members, veterans, their families, and people in their communities. The presentation is approximately two hours in length and is followed by a panel discussion featuring a diverse group of community members, as well as a town hall-style audience discussion.
Other keynote speakers include Kyle Fauntleroy, Chaplain, Naval Surface Force Pacific; Kristen Leslie, professor of pastoral theology and care, Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.; Bill Gibson, psychotherapist and neuropsychologist; and Joretta Marshall, executive vice president and dean and professor of pastoral theology and pastoral care and counseling, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas.
Plenary session topics include: “Bringing the Troops All the Way Home: Understanding Moral Injury,” “PTSD; Not All Wounds Are Visible;” “Military Sexual Trauma;” and “Community and Congregational Roles in Support Recovery from Moral Injury.”
Workshops and breakout sessions will include subjects such as “Storytelling as the Beginning of Recovery;” “Readjustment Counseling for Combat Vets;” “Families and Clergy Health and Safety;” “Leading Churches into Veterans Ministry;” “Women Who Have Served in the Armed Forces;” “Ritual and Healing from Moral Injury;” and “Forgiveness.”
Wilson will speak on “Utilizing Sacred Texts as Pathways to Hope.” Stories from the texts of four major religious traditions will be explored: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.