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Editor's e-Note
According to the author of our E-News Exclusive, when men and women are thrust into situations where moral bounds have been shattered and in which they are expected to commit acts that under normal circumstances would be considered criminal and immoral, we are setting them up for moral trauma. That is exactly what we ask of our military personnel when they are sent into combat. And if they survive combat, as veterans, they are often faced with shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and moral trauma in which an individual questions one’s character and worth as a human being.

One of the challenges of moral trauma is that it is typically only a single aspect of a larger complex of trauma that may cause professionals to overlook its intensity. Also making it hard to detect is the fact that this kind of trauma is often hidden behind a wall of shame. Our E-News Exclusive was written by a social worker who used poetry as a tool to help a veteran explore and process the moral trauma that he had left festering for years since his combat experience.

We welcome your comments at Visit our website at, join our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter.

— Marianne Mallon, editor
e-News Exclusive
Using Client-Generated Poetry to Explore the Moral Trauma of War
By J. Scott Janssen, MSW, LCSW

“I love writing poetry.” Jenkins’s eyes lit up as he spoke. I’d just suggested that an image he’d used during our conversation was a powerful metaphor around which a poem could be written. It’s a good lesson in not stereotyping. Why wouldn’t a U.S. Marines combat veteran write poetry? We’d been talking about the Vietnam War. In 1968 he’d been a corpsman carrying on his shoulders the weight of knowing the lives of any buddies who were wounded would, to some extent, be in his hands. For more than 40 years he’d been trying to sort out what it had all meant.

“Hold on a minute,” he said, moving gingerly around the oxygen tubing that wound its way from his nasal cannula to a tangle at his feet. He went to a filing cabinet and returned with a dog-eared manila folder labeled “Poetry,” dropping it in my lap.

Full Story »
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