Readers write: A Vietnam combat veteran’s perspective

Letters to the editor for the Feb. 24, 2020 weekly magazine. A Vietnam veteran discusses the best way to reintegrate soldiers into civilian life.

A Vietnam combat veteran speaks

The cover story “Healing the moral injury of war” by Martin Kuz in the Dec. 2, 2019, Monitor Weekly was a difficult one to deal with for me as a Vietnam combat veteran. 

The “Why we wrote this” insert defined the term “moral injury” as distinct from post-traumatic stress disorder and “a crisis of spirit that can be rooted in doubts over what their service achieved.” As we look at the number of veteran suicides, averaging 17 per day according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, I hope that the Monitor will do follow-up stories on why this community is in moral crisis. I believe that the moral injury impact may not even have to involve combat. Military service creates enough stress by itself. Those who serve can be morally injured when an event occurs in which leaders betray what is right. 

I suggest that the military employ the “squad concept” to help veterans heal. If it takes six months to train a soldier to kill, then we should take six months to untrain him or her. Most of us who took the oath “to support and defend” our country were surrounded, in our squads, by good people who shared our values. Each day, they helped us get through difficulties. It was leadership of the head and heart. We should take the last six months before military service ends and surround that person with a new “squad.”

That new squad should have the financial, legal, medical, psychological, educational, and familial ability to make sure that the individual is prepared to return to civilian life. The family is part of this final squad. Each person should be able to talk through stressful events and learn how to deal with them. This process may turn out to be expensive, but when we consider the cost to the families who have to face a veteran’s suicide or to the community in a “death by cop” situation, it will save us money and pain.

Bruce Richardson
St. Louis Park, Minnesota

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