CHICAGO, Ill. --
More than 270 of the Air Force Reserve Command’s chaplains
and chaplain’s assistants came together for the first time in five years April
18-21 in Chicago, Illinois.
The conference, themed “Moral Injury” and “Soul Care,” focused
on how to recognize the signs of someone struggling and how to help heal that
wound from within. The event provided 20 hours of training over a three day
“Moral injury is the betrayal of what an individual feels is morally right and
many of our troops might not understand how to deal with what’s going on in
their minds,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Kim, Mobilization Assistant to the Air
Force Reserve commander. “To help us connect with our people is as simple as
taking 90 seconds to sit down and just talk with our Airmen. By doing that you
can save marriages and lives.”
Speaking to the chaplains on their findings and research, Dr.
Rita Brock, director of the Soul Repair Center, and Dr. Jonathan Shay, a
clinical psychiatrist who specializes in treating the psychic wounds of war,
gave insight into what moral injury is and how to care for and heal those wounds.
According to Shay and Brock, moral injury is not something
that can be medicated or cured by psychology. It requires the reconstruction of
moral identity and it’s imperative to have a support system compiled of a
nonjudgmental community such as the Chaplain Corps.
Brock explained that moral injury is a normal human response
to terrible experiences and extreme traumas that change an individual forever.
She said when someone is suffering, what they need to do is find someone who
will listen. Who better than a chaplain?
“Chaplains will not pass judgement. What is said to them is
sacred and held in confidence,” Brock said. “You can recover and you can help
Finding ways to tell stories and perform rituals of return, cleansing,
restitution and forgiveness is another way of healing these moral injuries,
according to Chaplain (Col.) Gary Califf, Command Chaplain, Robins Air Force
“Find symbols of hope in people, pictures and keepsakes that
contain proof that we’re not alone and that there’s power greater than us,” said
Califf. “What I hope our chaplains take back with them is the knowledge that
will better equip them to help veterans transition from war and to help them
make sense and give meaning to what happened.”
The Chaplain Corps is a small community that hopes to have
more frequent conferences to accomplish in-depth training on a variety of
topics in the future, Maj. Gen. Kim explained.
“It’s important for them to come together to connect and
train,” Kim said. “It’s conferences like this that reignite the spiritual fire