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Moral Injury: the Invisible Epidemic Affecting American Veterans

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 26, 2024 3:03 am

Moral Injury: the Invisible Epidemic Affecting American Veterans

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 26, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Major General "Mook" Mukoyama volunteered and served in Korea and Vietnam. In 1986, he became the youngest General in the Army at that time. Soon after he was promoted to Major General, commanding the 70th Training Division during Desert Storm. Retired now, he spends his time serving our Veterans.

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Visit to get started. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. Major General James Mukayama rose from his blue-collar Chicago neighborhood to become the first Asian American to command a U.S. army division. General Muk, as he is well known, is the author of Faith, Family, and Flag, memoirs of an unlikely American samurai crusader. Mukayama volunteered and served in Korea and Vietnam. In 1986, he became the youngest general in the army. Soon after, he was promoted to major general, commanding the 70th training division during Desert Storm.

Retired now, he spends his time serving our veterans. When I was in the Mekong Delta with the hardcore battalion, an incident occurred where we had just overrun an enemy position and we had killed numerous enemy and in fact there were three dead bodies at my feet. Now the time a unit is most vulnerable is right after a victory.

It's just human nature to kind of let your guard down and breathe a sigh of relief. Well, I'm the guy in charge so I'm on my radio barking out orders to my platoon leaders and then suddenly I stopped and I looked at the three dead bodies at my feet. I realized that something had happened to me, something had hardened my heart. Only moments earlier these were alive human beings, children of God. They had families and loved ones and they were fighting for something as important to them as I was fighting for and yet I was just treating them like they were bumps on a log. And then I remembered Jesus' sermon on the mount where he told us to pray for our enemies and so in the midst of all this stuff going on I said a prayer for the three Viet Cong and myself. I knew I was praying for myself as well.

Now this all took about 30 seconds in my mind but it's something that stuck with me ever since. So the VA was not in good shape when we came back from Vietnam and so I founded a 501c3 faith-based non-profit called Military Outreach USA and we have two major programs. One is to help homeless veterans and the other is to reduce the high rate of suicide because we address a subject that is not really that much known. Everybody knows about PTSD and everybody knows about the effects of traumatic brain injury. Very few people know of the concept of moral injury. Now in 2015 we published a book about this and the title of the book is They Don't Receive Purple Hearts and it's about the invisible wound of war, moral injury.

What is moral injury? From the time you're born until you're 18 years old you develop a personal moral code, a sense of right or wrong that could come from your family, your religion, your community, whatever and then you join the military and you learn a warrior code that is superimposed on your personal moral code and in fact transforms it somewhat. And then you might have to participate in activities or operations that violate your personal moral code such as killing. You don't have to be the person that pulls the trigger. You could feel you should have prevented it or you could follow another unit and you see that innocent civilians have been killed or you handle body parts. At that time you sustain the so-called invisible wound of war called moral injury. It's not physical.

You can't see it. But in military operations you're constantly moving from point A to point B to point C. You don't have time to stop and reflect on this stuff. So what do you do? You bury it and it becomes unresolved guilt and shame. Then you leave the military or you come back to the States and something triggers it. And this could be decades later. Because when you first come back you kind of get on with life.

If you're single you get married and you have a family, you get a job. But then later something triggers it and it bubbles up to the surface. PTSD is a situation caused by external forces. With moral injury it's an internal situation where you basically feel that you have participated in such bad things. You're no longer worthy of love. That God doesn't love you. In fact you get mad at God. That's okay.

He can take it. And you totally lose your sense of self-worth. And unless you have a strong coping mechanism for that, anger, depression, suicide. And it's the position of Military Outreach USA that the main approach for moral injury is not a medical doctor with prescription drugs. It's the forgiveness and grace of a moral authority, a loving God, the counseling of clergy, and or sensitive therapists, and the support of a community offering hope and help. I have often asked myself why haven't I had the flashbacks, the nightmares, and I always attributed it to two things. Number one was my faith, and number two was my wonderful wife who has really forgiven me and put up with me for 53 years. But after I started working with veterans and getting involved into the invisible wounds of war, I realized that that incident with the three Viet Cong, I realized that I was one in a million who was able to address my moral injury at the time it happened.

And what a story Major General James Mukayama just told. Moral injury is what he was talking about. Prescription drugs won't take care of it. Medicine and doctors won't.

It's forgiveness, grace, and mercy that will. A beautiful story. Major General James Mukayama General Mook here on Our American Stories. This is Lee Habib, host of Our American Stories. Every day we set out to tell the stories of Americans past and present, from small towns to big cities, and from all walks of life doing extraordinary things. But we truly can't do this show without you. Our shows are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to and make a donation to keep the stories coming.

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