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Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers

By Nancy Sherman
Movies like American Sniper and The Hurt Locker hint at the inner scars our soldiers incur during service in a war zone. The moral dimensions of their psychological injuries--guilt, shame, feeling responsible for doing wrong or being wronged-elude conventional treatment. Georgetown philosophy professor Nancy Sherman turns her focus to these moral injuries in Afterwar. She argues that psychology and medicine alone are inadequate to help with many of the most painful questions veterans are bringing home from war.

Trained in both ancient ethics and psychoanalysis, and with twenty years of experience working with the military, Sherman draws on in-depth interviews with servicemen and women to paint a richly textured and compassionate picture of the moral and psychological aftermath of America's longest wars. She explores how veterans can go about reawakening their feelings without becoming re-traumatized; how they can replace resentment with trust; and the changes that need to be made in order for this to happen-by military courts, VA hospitals, and the civilians who have been shielded from the heaviest burdens of war.

2.6 million soldiers are currently returning home from war, the greatest number since Vietnam. Facing an increase in suicides and post-traumatic stress, the military has embraced measures such as resilience training and positive psychology to heal mind as well as body. Sherman argues that some psychological wounds of war need a kind of healing through moral understanding that is the special province of philosophical engagement and listening.

"Nancy Sherman's superb Afterwar brilliantly explores the moral and philosophical complexities of homecomings for modern veterans, the largest reintegration of servicemembers back into society since Vietnam. This is an urgently necessary book--once a moving account of individual veterans' stories and a powerful examination of our collective obligations toward those who fought in our name." --Phil Klay, author of Redeployment

"Nancy Sherman writes about the souls of our soldiers and the wounds that are deeply hidden. Her writing stretches beyond the scholarly writing of war, ethics, and morality. She reaches down deep into the heart and emotion of young people who sign up to fight for their country and find that the fighting is much harder and more complex than they imagined. This is a must-read book for Americans at a time when our nation is bringing home our troops while preparing others for the next wave of conflicts." --Brigadier General (Ret) Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., Adjunct Professor, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences

"Our returning troops are exposed to moral injury--a violation of deeply held beliefs about just behavior. This injury is more than PTSD. Drawing upon a unique and intimate knowledge of the combat soldier's emotional struggle and the language of classical philosophy, this extremely sensitive and compelling volume, Afterwar, enlightens and disturbs. We are reminded that our veterans are not only injured by exposure to brutal and tragic loss, but suffer by being alienated from their sense of order and honor. We, the civilians who send them to war and welcome them back, need to learn a new language if we are to truly embrace our home-coming combatants. We need to speak with them, not just of them. This book is essential reading for a nation bringing home troops after over a decade of war." --Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University, former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health

"Every combat veteran comes home in his or her way. Afterwar combines Nancy Sherman's brilliant insights as a scholar with her perceptive ear and storyteller's gift for prose, producing a rich tapestry of experiences from many veterans of our post-9/11 deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of war. We often cloak combat service in heroic narrative, both to recognize the extraordinary acts performed therein and encourage others to step forward into the breach when their time comes. Prof. Sherman moves beyond this heroic narrative to help us understand how veterans experience the extraordinary experience of war, and move on from it when they return to civilian society." --Phillip Carter, Iraq veteran and director of the veterans research program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC

"Nancy Sherman is a philosopher who talks to soldiers and, what is more important, listens to soldiers--in this case soldiers returning from our recent wars. Her book is a powerful account of what she heard and a plea to all her readers to join in the work of listening, so that coming back for these soldiers is also coming home." --Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, and author of Just and Unjust Wars

"A piercing course in sensitivity training to build a moral community upon re-entry into society." --Kirkus Review


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ISBN: 9780199325276

About the Hardcover

Publisher Oxford University Press, USA
Publish date 05/06/2015
Pages 256
ISBN-13 9780199325276
ISBN-10 0199325278
Language English

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