From Pulitzer Prize-¬?winning journalist David Wood, a battlefield view of moral injury, the signature wound of America's 21st century wars.
Most Americans are now familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its prevalence among troops. In this groundbreaking new book, David Wood examines the far more pervasive yet less understood experience of those we send to war: moral injury, the violation of our fundamental values of right and wrong that so often occurs in the impossible moral dilemmas of modern conflict. Featuring portraits of combat veterans and leading mental health researchers, along with Wood's personal observations of war and the young Americans deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, What Have We Done offers an unflinching look at war and those who volunteer for it: the thrill and pride of service and, too often, the scars of moral injury.
Impeccably researched and deeply personal, What Have We Done is a compassionate, finely drawn study of modern war and those caught up in it. It is a call to acknowledge our newest generation of veterans by listening intently to them and absorbing their stories; and, as new wars approach, to ponder the inevitable human costs of putting American "boots on the ground."
Wood, a longtime war correspondent, takes on the monumental task of conveying to civilians the emotional turmoil veterans endure upon returning home from war. Post-traumatic stress disorder tends to dominate headlines, but Wood focuses upon "moral injury": the deep-rooted psychic trauma that grips people when they believe they have violated the profound taboo of killing another human. Though the book touches on other conflicts, including soldiers' responses to discovering concentration camp survivors during WWII, this is primarily a powerful and gut-wrenching look at the 21st-century Americans who have faced multiple deployments in Afghanistan. Even as drill sergeants train soldiers in the dark arts of killing and surviving encounters with the enemy, the American military barely acknowledges the long-term repercussions. Wood probes how soldiers learn to cope with or fail to recover from these debilitating experiences and reveals how a few stalwart medical professionals help them deal with the types of profound pain that leave no visible scars. He also covers the work of chaplains tending to spiritually wounded veterans and grapples with the experiences of soldiers who have been sexually assaulted by comrades-in-arms. Wood delivers searing, elegantly told reportage on a little-understood and long-ignored facet of war.