Repairing the Soul: Spirituality and Moral Injury
Format: Panelist discussion, moderated by Rev. Tiffany L. Steinwert, Ph.D.
Ms. Hudson is the Pagan Chaplain at Syracuse University and has been working with SU students since 2002 as a Religious Advisor. She is also a Third-Degree High Priestess, ordained in 2003 as a member of the clergy of the Church of the Greenwood. In 2010 Mary was appointed by the Church to her position as Chaplain at SU making her the second Pagan Chaplain at a secondary educational institution in the United States.
Ms. Hudson holds a dual Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies and is currently pursuing her Master of Divinity in Neo-Pagan Theology. More
Pamela Lightsey is a scholar, social justice activist, and military veteran whose academic and research interests include: classical and contemporary just war theory, Womanist theology, Queer theory and theology, and African American religious history and theologies. An ordained elder in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, Pamela pastored an urban church on the south side of Chicago, has done work for several UM general agencies and has strong connections within several mainline denominations. She has been a member of the Pan Methodist Commission for the last two quadrennials.
She currently co-chairs the American Academy of Religion’s Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group. She is a member of the Executive Committee for the Soul Repair Project, which studies the role of moral injury in veterans. The project is funded by several sources including a Lilly Endowment grant and is directed by feminist scholar, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock.
Pamela’s publications include “Reconciliation,” in Radical Evangelical (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), “If There Should Come a Word” in Black United Methodists Preach! (Abingdon Press), “Inner Dictum: A Womanist Reflection From The Queer Realm” in Black Theology Journal and Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology, forthcoming 2015 Wipf and Stock Publishers. More
Donald Kirby is a Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest and a professor in the Religious Studies Department at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is Compass for Unchartered Lives: A Model for Values Education (Syracuse University Press). His earlier research related to corporate/institutional cultures, ethics and religion as applied to business corporations and the college/university town relationships (e.g., The Carrier Dome: A Town-Gown controversy). More recently, for nearly twenty years, he was co-founder and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Values Education. This Center, which studied the impact of higher education on moral development and corporate responsibility, led to development of a model for values education that was widely adapted both nationally and internationally. He has published journal articles and books and facilitated workshops on ethics, values, and institutional cultures in the United States, Central America, Europe, and Asia. His current research, “What is the role of religion/faith in relationship to the practice of forgiveness in one’s life?” seeks to examine the impact or religion/faith as a resource for meeting the critical challenges of forgiveness.
Mohamed Khater is the president of the Islamic Society of Central New York, a member of the InterFaith Works Round Table of Faith Leaders and the President of the (soon to open) Rahma Free Health Clinic.
Critical Horizons in Research on Moral Injury
Format: Presentations by panelists followed by Q&A, moderated by Dessa Bergen-Cico, Ph.D.
Presentation: Conceptual, Contextual, and Ethical Dimensions in the Study of Moral Injury in the Military
The theoretical construct of a “moral injury” sustained within the context of military service is still a controversial one, alternately embraced, denied, uneasily acknowledged, or shied away from by the relatively few Americans who encounter the concept. Further, while moral injury may appear to be situated within a given individual, in fact the etiology of such an injury is complex, arising as it does from a convergence of the many personalities, decisions, and actions, sociocultural and political forces playing out in a particular historical moment through a particular human being. The implications of such complexity for conducting research on moral injury will be discussed in terms of interrelated conceptual, contextual, and ethical considerations.
Pamela J. Johnson, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. joined the School of Social Work as an assistant professor. She completed her Ph.D. at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Fall of 2010. Her dissertation was entitled, “Maternal history of childhood trauma, parenting stress, and home environment provided for children,” a secondary data analysis examining the relationship between maternal caregivers’ experiences of childhood trauma and the characteristics of the home environment they subsequently provide for their own children. More
Dr. Bill Cross: B.S. Engineering USMA West Point (1962), M.B.A. Syracuse University in Organization and Management (1969), Ph.D. in Counseling from Syracuse University (1977)is a practicing psychotherapist in Syracuse who has worked with military veterans and their families for over 35 years. He is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) and is a Senior Consultant & Trainer in the Trauma Resiliency (TRM)and Community Resiliency Method (CRM) which are very effective methods of working with trauma. He teaches community members and trauma survivors and their family and friends skills to manage the effects of trauma and develop resiliency.
He spent 10 years in the Army, including combat duty in Vietnam after which he was a professor of psychology and leadership at West Point. In addition to his counseling work, Dr. Cross is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at OCC where he was awarded the Chancellors For Excellence in Teaching. He also teaches meditation and stress reduction at the Zen Center of Syracuse.
He has been active in several local organizations and is a cofounder of the Support Troops Network. More
Presentation: Assessing the research evidence on moral injury: Current status and future horizons
Trauma researchers have historically focused on life-threatening events among military populations. However, there is consensus that war-zone service frequently entails a more diverse set of possible traumas that might entail severe moral/ethical challenges. As a way of expanding existing conceptual models, Litz et al. (2009) define morally injurious experiences (MIEs) as “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that trangress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (p. 700). Shay (1995, 2014) suggests a complementary, three-tiered definition of moral injury that focuses on leadership malpractice: “(a) a betrayal of ‘what’s right’; (b) by someone who holds legitimate authority; (c) in a high stakes situation.” Although formal research has just begun, emerging findings support the additive effects of MIEs and unique constellations of symptoms that may emerge following these potential traumas. This presentation will summarize the current status of this growing literature and offer suggestions for future research.
Joe Currier is a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Psychology Department and Combined-Integrated Doctoral Program in Clinical/Counseling Psychology at the University of South Alabama (USA). Prior to joining the faculty at USA, he completed a clinical internship and fellowship at the Memphis VAMC and was a member of the clinical psychology faculty at Fuller Seminary for three years. Dr. Currier’s research focuses on psychological, spiritual/existential, and physical health consequences of military trauma and other stressful life events (e.g., bereavement, community violence) and enhancing clinical interventions and assessment practices for individuals/families dealing with these issues. At present, many of his projects are devoted to understanding the role of spiritual struggles in posttraumatic recovery and testing/validating the construct of moral injury as it relates to military populations. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and invited papers and currently maintains a private practice also specializing in trauma and grief. More
The Power of Veterans’ Narratives: Making Sense of Moral Injury
Panel Moderator: Eileen E. Schell, Ph.D.
Presentation: Narrative, Order, and Silence
Central to the memoir, Beyond Duty, is a tension between silence and narrative—between what can be said and what can’t be said. Such a tension emerges in any number of war narratives, and the purpose of this presentation is to, on the one hand, survey some of those instances in other texts while, on the other hand, exploring how and why we attempted so strongly to speak through silences in Beyond Duty. The presentation aims to encourage the audience to reflect on how silences have shaped their own narratives, and we suggest that the capacity of narrative to order those silences may make it one of our most effective tools in connecting with and making sense of moral injury.
Captain Shannon P. Meehan was a leader of a tank platoon for the storied 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army. He graduated from Virginia Military Institute with distinction, having also studied at Oxford University, and earned the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and other military honors while serving in Iraq.
Meehan was seriously injured in an IED strike in Baqubah city, and suffered Traumatic Brain Injury as well as other physical injuries.
Now medically retired from service, Shannon has earned a Master of Arts in Education from Villanova University and has become an advocate for veterans, particularly those suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder – injuries specific to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Dr. Roger Thompson is Associate Professor of English and Fine Arts at Stony Brook University. He is an award-winning nonfiction writer and has published both academic and non-academic work in a variety of journals.
Meehan and Thompson have both continued to write and publish independently, and they are currently teaming up as co-authors for a second book. More
Presentation: Veterans and the Power of the Narrative
My presentation for the panel, “Coming Home through Writing” will explain some reasons why I and so many veterans find writing and speaking to be empowering as well as cathartic. I will discuss how I “found” writing and poetry including sharing a poem(s) from my journey that I am still exploring. I can also discuss the value of story-telling as a transitional tool in addition to explaining the necessity of such rituals for past warriors. I will express the essence of my writing workshop facilitation starting with creating a safe space to allow emotional space for the veterans to share their experiences with each other and in the future with their families and civilians. I will provide the connection between moral injury and building community between veterans and civilians is the key to successful transition and a healthy society. That utilizing writing and listening we can rebuild the soul that our traumatic experiences tear down.
Jenny Pacanowski was in the US Army from 2003 to 2008. She served as a combat medic in Iraq 2004 as medical support and evacuation for convoys with the Marines, Army and Air Force Reserve. Jenny started writing in 2008 to share her experiences with other veterans and be part of a community that discussed and performed their stories for civilians to begin the dialogue to understand the cost of war. In 2011, she began to facilitate writing workshops for veterans and their families. Currently, Jenny continues to write and perform poetry, plays, monologues and public speeches to educate, create community and strive towards artistic integrity and excellence.
Panel Respondent: Matt Lewis is a PhD candidate at Emory University working on a dissertation that focuses on trauma, memory studies, and narrative theory. In the project, he draws on interviews and observational research with male veterans of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He arrived at Syracuse in October 2014 to conduct fieldwork with the Veterans’ Writing Group and in other various public forums centered on articulating and exploring the veteran experience. Lewis holds an MA from Emory, a Masters of Theological Studies in Religion, Ethics, and Politics from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A from Georgetown University.