Xavier Shows How Faith-Based Universities are Uniquely Able to Help Veterans overcome Moral Injury

May 23, 2013

Barack Obama’s signing of the Post 9-11 GI Bill meant an influx of veterans taking advantage of educational benefits. In particular, it presents Christian universities with a unique opportunity to educate, mentor, and minister to veterans returning from service war zones, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of these veterans begin their education while suffering both physically and psychologically. Physical concerns can be immediately addressed, but certain conditions, such as moral injury, may not manifest until well after the veteran has left the tour of duty.

Nathan Davis, director of Xavier’s Center for Veterans Affairs, and John Wolfe, PhD, visiting faculty in philosophy, will present, “The Habit and the Drum: Returning Veterans, Moral Injury, and The Role of Christian Education in the Healing Process” at the IAPCHE Internationalizing Christian Higher Education conference, May 23-25 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. They will examine the unique role of a Christian university in the treatment of veterans suffering from the psychological trauma of moral injury, and how such service can aid the internationalization of the university as a whole.

“I went from a man to a killer in basic training. When I returned, I had to relearn what it means to be human,” said one of Xavier University’s student veterans.

Wolfe and Davis will present on four areas. First, they introduce the concept of moral injury, explaining the cause, symptoms, and current accepted treatment. It is not a physical disease, but one which attacks the conscience, causing shame, guilt and anger. Second, they address the current treatment approach of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to moral injury, at this point little more than standard post-traumatic stress disorder treatment. Third, they suggest that effective treatment of moral injury can happen in the academic environment of a liberal arts, Christian university. A Christian University provides a unique environment for such individuals, where returning veterans’ minds, bodies, and souls can be nurtured and educated. The environment has the potential to transform them. Finally, they share Xavier University’s positive, proactive steps to address the needs of veterans suffering from moral injury. Xavier established a full time director of Veterans’ Affairs for the university, has a part-time counselor on site, developed core courses focused on the needs of veterans, promoted veteran employment through the Hire-A-Hero program, and created specific study abroad opportunities for veterans.

To learn more about moral injury and the steps being taken to address it, please contact Nate Davis at 513-745-3620.