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Soldiers returning to Army bases have chaplains who have probably shared the combat experience, but Guard members returning to civilian settings might not seek help from pastors who haven’t “been there,” Winn said.
But with the Guard chaplains spread thin — Timm serves as pastor in a Lutheran church in Barron, Wis. — community religious leaders need to become more of a resource.
“Pain is pain,” Winn said.
If moral injury can be measured and treated, Harris said, there are reasons for optimism. Soldiers with moral injuries who confront their religious beliefs and come to understand them often resolve their guilt and end up with stronger spirituality and faith.
“They’re actually better and stronger at the end of it,” she said.
Doble, the VA peer support volunteer, spent 30 years pushing aside the painful memories of Vietnam and ignoring the contradictions that emerged from his own religious beliefs. Having found stability in his life — and resolving the spiritual questions that had been punishing him — Doble said he wants to share the experience with other veterans.
“I was ashamed where there is no shame,” he said, “and I want people to know that.”
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744