U.S. Army Alaska chaplain conducts training to educate community on moral injuries
By Maj. Timothy Chavis (USAREUR)April 17, 2017
ANCHORAGE - In an effort to improve patient care throughout the state of Alaska, North Star Behavioral Health hosted the third biannual Holistic Healthcare Conference April 12-13.
Elke Villegas, the director of business development for North Star said, "Holistic health not only addresses disease-related challenges but also addresses the state of mind, emotions, and spirit."
Lt. Col. Greg Thogmartin, the command chaplain for United States Army Alaska, led a workshop focused on caring for the military community on Wednesday.
Thogmartin began his presentation by thanking the therapists, nurses, counselors, and other medical practitioners who have been supportive of Alaska's military community, especially over the last decade, wherein service members experienced an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injuries. Throughout his presentation, he referenced personal experiences he had during his twenty-four years of service and a vast amount of literature on the subject of moral injuries.
He presented the latest information on the concept of moral injury and potential approaches to relief. He said, "PTSD is primarily related to traumas where there is a fear response. Moral injury, while there is some overlap in symptoms, is driven more by the sense of guilt, the sense of shame." He added, "It's that injury to the soul or that wound to who you are at the core, which pushes people to that point of despair, which makes suicide appear to be a viable option."
Throughout the workshop, Thogmartin recommended some techniques used to evaluate moral injuries and activities that could be used to "lighten the rucksack."
Thogmartin emphasized the importance of the community in recognizing how to care for service members and veterans dealing with moral injuries.
At the end of his presentation, he participated in a panel discussion with four additional Chaplains, Col. Rick Cook, state command chaplain for Alaska National Guard, Lt. Col. Ted McGovern, support chaplain for Alaska National Guard, Maj. James Hall, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division Chaplain, Maj. Will Harrison, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Chaplain. The panel explained how the military is focused on resiliency and identified some resources for service members.
When asked about where service members could seek out help, Hall replied, "it usually takes a moral authority to help someone with a moral injury."