Fort Riley, Kansas



CHAPLAIN’S CORNER - Understanding, dealing with betrayal

By Chaplain (MAJ) Kent Coffey | FORT RILEY FAMILY LIFE CHAPLAIN | August 17, 2017

     Have you been be­trayed? I mean really betrayed. Not the kind of betrayal that occurs when you are a teenager and you see your heart throb kissing someone else. I am talking about the kind of betrayal that goes to the core of who you are, your very soul. If so, you may have experienced a moral injury.

     Moral inju­ry is a relatively new term to describe what happens when the values, morals, ethics or principles our lives are built upon, come into question due to a traumatic experience. Many of us learned these values, morals, etc. in church, from parents and from the Army. Examples of moral injury can include:

                A rape at the hands of a trusted friend or co-worker

                The death of a child or other innocent person at war or at home

                Giving an order in combat that results in the death of a Soldier

                The expectation and failure/betrayal of others to come to your aid


     These are just a few ex­amples but illustrate the sense in which a betrayal has oc­curred. The betrayal of certain fundamental ideas of right and wrong. The moral code has been broken, which can cause the effected person to question everything they held deep.

     Some might ask, isn’t this the same as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Moral injury differs from PTSD in that PTSD is a mental health di­agnosis whereas Moral Injury goes much deeper, to the very core of who we are. Typical PTSD protocols for treat­ment are also often ineffective at relieving the symptoms of moral injury, and vice versa. Newsweek did an excellent article from 2012, when the topic was first resurrected and it is certainly worth the read at new-theory-ptsd-and-veterans-moral-injury-63539.

     If you stare across any for­mation on Fort Riley you will see lots of sleeves with combat service patches. If you think these are the only ones who could be the bearers of a moral injury you would be wrong. It may be your battle buddy who has never deployed but crashed their car into a family of four on an icy road leaving the par­ents paralyzed. It could be the sergeant 1st class who suffered a rape when she was a private and has never told anyone.

     There are signs and symp­toms but they are easy to miss in our environment because they are held so deep. While there is some cross pollination between PTSD and moral injury, moral injury typically does not include startle reflex, memory loss or flashbacks. Typical symptoms are:








     Though more research needs to be done on this topic, there is good news. Effective treatments have been found. Most of these treatments involve a trusted facilitator and lots of exploration, i.e. talk. On Fort Riley, one of your greatest resources is your chaplain. Chaplains are very attuned to deeply held beliefs and a Soldier’s sense of moral­ity. Your chaplain can help you or a friend work through the issues of betrayal in a purely confidential setting.

     I encourage you to seek help. The longer you wait the longer the conflict between what you know is right and what really happened will eat at you. If you are unable to find help in your workplace, please try our office at 785-239-3436 or Veteran’s Affairs, who is doing excellent research and treatment in this area. I honestly believe that together we can bring coherence and relief to your troubled heart, mind and soul.


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