Moral Injury and its Devastating Long-Term Effects on the Veteran Psyche

This post and linked story is less about the egregious prosecution of a local gadfly and more about the long term psychological toll that participating in war engender on the human psyche. It is also a post about co-morbidity of moral injury with other, more physiological symptoms. I will write more about co-morbidity of PTSD, TBI, and moral injury in my longer weekly post coming up tomorrow, but for now it’s enough to point out that co-morbidity can increase anxiety as a person is dealing with different presenting problems at the same time. This is exhibited by this veteran’s friend stating:

“Brandon and I have spoken extensively about what we carry with us. Brandon has a brain injury that interferes with the way he talks about things,” Westmoreland told The Intercept, referring to the training incident. “It isn’t obvious to someone who doesn’t know him. He says what he feels, and there is no filter. He says a lot of contradictory things, but he can’t help it; he is working out a lot from the wars and even our current political situation here.”

https://theintercept.com/2020/03/31/brandon-bryant-whistleblower-charges/

This inability to “filter” is a classic symptom of brain injury, of which traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as repeated concussions, is a subset. Lack of filtering doesn’t necessarily translate into poor impulse control. In this case, though the case against him is rather vague, it seems like he made a rambling diatribe video lambasting the city council. Fortunately for him, he lives in Montana, where a jury is unlikely to convict for saying something on a heavily edited video submitted as “evidence” that takes his statement of “eliminating” the council members out of context.

However, it does point up that veterans, to some degree, have an easy target painted on their back. Get too mouthy about “authorities” and it is easy to convince [some] law enforcement types to brand them as “dangerous” and get them hauled away. One only has to look at the Brandon Raub case (no relation) to see how far this inanity can go–and the high personal and financial costs associated with extracting oneself from the “system.” The FBI/Homeland security has even gone to the ridiculous lengths of branding, in not so many words, all veterans as potential lone-wolf domestic terrorists:

The return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.

https://fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf

and

Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right-wing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize veterans in order to boost their violent capacities.

https://fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf

What is needed is a return to the police as peace officers rather than as the armed enforcers of political disagreement. In the past a peace officer, who most likely knows the person, would have had a sit-down and basically told him to knock it off and that would be the end of it. Instead, psychologically and physiologically traumatized veterans get treated as if they were enemy combatants rather than as suffering human beings.