I did serve, but not in Afghanistan.
I have friends, a stepson who served there, and another stepson who lost a good friend to an IED, as well as a good friend whose fiancé was killed while embedded as a journalist.
We all understand that many veterans have come home from that war suffering physical and traumatic injuries. Some of those wounds are obvious, but many are unseen and seldom heard except during nightmares.
But many more have come home with moral injuries.
Moral injuries are a result of traumatic or unusually stressful circumstances. Circumstances, where people may have perpetrated an action, failed to prevent or witnessed events contradicting their own deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Some examples leading to moral injury include:
- Unintentional errors leading to injury or death
- Witnessing or failing to prevent harm or death
- Transgression of peers, leaders or organizations that betrayed our moral/ethical beliefs or expectations
When a soldier comes home and can’t explain or understand what they did while following legal orders, or why they couldn’t stop something horrible from happening, and no one at home can understand or wants to hear about that side of combat, the moral injury festers.
Someone suffering from Moral Injury could be permanently tainted by what they had done: “How can I say I am a good person when my actions resulted in this?”
Now imagine what is going through that person’s heart & mind watching their honourable service, blood, and friends’ lives all seem for not when the ANA and The Afghan government fold up like a cheap shirt.
Take a moment to care for and be kind to the veterans in your family, your workplaces and your networks by employing these strategies:
1. Maintain a Dialogue: It’s essential to keep lines of communication open. People with moral injuries may feel embarrassed to ask for help, so take the initiative and ask how you and other team members can support them. Use empathic listening and pay close attention to what they say. If they’re reluctant to talk, wait for them to open up, and don’t interrupt them when they do start to speak. Be patient and remember that giving people an opportunity to talk about their concerns can be therapeutic in itself. If they are more comfortable communicating in writing, have the conversation through email.
2. Meet Their Needs: Start by simply asking what changes you could make to improve their work environment. Especially when dealing with colleagues, encourage them to walk away if discussions with other team members get too stressful or heated and talk about their situation with their colleagues when things have calmed down. This can help to improve relationships and understanding within the team.
3. Deal With Problems Promptly: It’s vital to deal with issues as soon as they arise. If people are not performing well, or are having a hard time at work, speak to them directly, and ask them what you can do to help. At the same time, firm but constructive feedback will enable them to understand what they must do to complete their tasks successfully.
4. Provide Training for the Team: Raising awareness of the experiences of those who may have had experiences moral injuries or PTSD and its symptoms within your team is likely to inspire members to find new ways to work with anyone who has the condition. They may be more patient and sensitive to colleagues’ needs if they better understand what they might be going through.
Appreciate what is in their mind and their heart these days.
And be kind