Soul Repair Conference in Raleigh, NC March 2014
By John Heuer
The first North Carolina Soul Repair conference was held in Raleigh, March 6 & 7. “Healing Moral Injury After War” was the subtitle of the event, which brought together 60 plus clergymen and women, military chaplains, veterans, therapists, and just plain folks. An estimated 23 US veterans take their own lives every day. The conference was designed to address this suicide epidemic, and work to articulate the illusive distinctions between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and “Moral Injury,” a category of injury not yet recognized by the VA, but of considerable interest to communities of faith.
The conference was organized by the Carolina Soul Repair Coalition, and co-sponsored by a host of organizations, including the NC Council of Churches, Quaker House, Veterans For Peace, and the Soul Repair Center in Fort Worth, Texas. It would be difficult to assemble a gathering of more well-meaning people.
The most inspiring moment for me was when Col. Kimberly Olson (US Air Force, ret) recounted the story of a pilot in Iraq, the only survivor when her helicopter was shot down. She lost both her legs in the crash, but survived, and was elected to the US House of Representatives from Illinois on her second try. Last fall, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth rose to speak in Congress to tell President Obama that he must not make war on Syria, that he must seek a diplomatic solution to that crisis. War on Syria was averted. Decorated military veterans like Kim Olson and Tammy Duckworth are shining examples of how we can make less war when we empower women more.