Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Invisible Wounds

I have not seen the US Bar so crowded as it was last night.  There were Spirits of the dead there amongst the living, drinking customers. We had a great bear of a man, a SEAL, a Special Ops man sitting at a table with a tiny (5'5") Major General, talking through the latter's long career and his Defining Moment in the heat of battle. It was one that I recognised, having experienced almost exactly the same m'self a long time ago. It had propelled his later life 'calling'. His focus today is on the dreadful and little known statistic of suicide amongst military Veterans.
There are 22 suicides of veterans every day,” 
Gen.Mukoyama said. 
“We lose more veterans to suicide in one year than all the deaths from combat since 9/11.”

It is not just an American problem. It seems to be one of our period in history, affecting many in Western nations which send men off to war. 

Australian veteran suicide, too, is troubleing. It is a stain on the 'laid-back Australian character. Tough men, trained and hardened should be able to weather the demands battle puts upon them. But it seems many cannot. 

The hardening is largely of the body: the toughening of the emotions, too. But the spirit is neglected. Men have souls and our training disregards men's souls. They return from war to hospitals where their fleshy wounds, sometimes of a dreadful nature, can be dealt with; but their souls are wounded too. And there is no-one to nurse that.

The main point in the bar was about the invisible wounds soldiers get. 

"Moral Injury stems from the participation in acts of combat that conflict with a soldier's deeply held principles. This unseen impairment leads to a sense of guilt, shame, and grief which can manifest itself as self-harm or suicide if not addressed. 

Vets rarely suicide because their body hurts. Many are incredibly stoic about that. 
They suicide when in despair.

Despair is deep in the pit of the psyche. It is at rock bottom. 

Huey Lewis expressed it well. Probably better than any other popular singer.
Suicide rate among (Australian) defence veterans far higher than for those currently serving

National Mental Health Commission says reason for phenomenon requires further investigation.
The rate of suicide among current serving Australian defence force membersis much lower than the general population, but higher for those who have left the force, particularly if under 30 years of age. 

It says the ADF must improve the preparation it gives personnel for life beyond the ADF, and then provide support services from the moment of discharge for the duration of post-service life.
The final report of the Commission’s review of the suicide and self-harm prevention services available to serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families was released on Thursday.
It relied on interviews with more than 3,200 serving and ex-serving ADF members, family members, and experts. It found current and former ADF personnel could access a range of suicide services, and a survey conducted for the review found 80% of current ADF members described their experience of those services as fair, good, very good or excellent.
But it heard a range of poor experiences of services, and feelings of cynicism, distrust, frustration, abandonment and loss, with many ADF members unaware that services existed, and barriers preventing some from accessing services.
When adjusting for age, when compared with all Australian men, it says the suicide rate is 53% lower for men serving in the ADF full time – a statistically significant difference. But the suicide rate is 13% higher for men who have left the force.
So just what did James Mukoyama have to say to Jocko Wilink that captured all the attention?  It was a very long evening and those of you who want to hear how a chap builds his way in the Warrior career path, gets disappointed, frustrated, learns a huge amount about himself and men, then please do listen all the way from start to finish. I did. I had to delegate Ale pouring to a handy consciencious objector.

Let me introduce the tiny Warrior.  His active career was short. His Reserve career was long, but oh, so busy. Major General James H. Mukoyama, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 1944.  He retired from the Army in May 1995, after over thirty years of total active and reserve component service, and two combat tours. 

He was commissioned as a Regular Army Infantry Second Lieutenant in 1965 upon graduation from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature.  He received his Master’s degree in the Teaching of Social Studies also from the University of Illinois in 1966.

During his five years on active duty, General Mukoyama served as a platoon leader in the demilitarized zone in the Republic of Korea and as an infantry company commander in the 9th Division in Vietnam.  He was the youngest General Officer in the entire United States Army in 1987 and subsequently the youngest Major General three years later. 

In 1989, he became the first Asian-American in the history of the United States to command an Army division.  Among General Mukoyama’s decorations and badges are the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, 3 Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, Parachutist Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

There was so much about the deep and detailed conversation that I recognised, from all the 'dream sheet' requests ignored, to the frustrations of working with the many Officers who were 'Duds' instead of 'Studs', to meeting and having first-class mentors, and of course to seeing 'Action' on the battlefield. He speaks too, of the inter-service rivalries; the political issues that are precursors of today's international issues: the 'race-relationship' issues affecting American (and other western nations): the struggle to gain understanding of just who one is.

But I shall point you to the 'Defining Moment, as it is relevant. 

You will have to go to around 1 hour and 9 minutes into the video. Follow for a good ten minutes to understand. Hold off your judgement.

Since his retirement from active federal service in 1995, General Mukoyama has volunteered and participated in numerous organizations, both governmental and non-profit charitable, benefiting our military, veterans, and the community.

In addition to his full-time civilian position as Executive Vice-President and Chief Compliance Officer of a national stock brokerage firm, General Mukoyama spent seven years as the Vice-Chairman of the National Memorial to Patriotism dedicated in Washington, DC in 2001.  He is a life member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Disabled Veterans of America.

In January 2013, General Mukoyama answered a calling to devote his life to the ministry of Military Outreach USA, a faith-based 501(c)(3) organization serving our military --- Active, Guard, Reserve, Veterans --- and their families, to cope with the visible and invisible wounds associated with military service to our great nation.  

In order to serve as the President and Executive Director, Mukoyama’s 38-year career in the financial services industry, where he had been a member of the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, ended.

He lives in Glenview, Illinois, with K.J., his wife of over forty-six years.  They attend Willow Creek Community Church where he has led a men’s small group for over a decade, co-directs a monthly men’s breakfast, and founded a military ministry program.

He has written extensively on the Moral Injury.  A summary of the Program would say: To define the little known invisible wound of war called Moral Injury; its history and insidious relation to Veteran suicide; that hope and healing is available; and how the community must get involved.

You can access information on Military Outreach USA:

It is a faith-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which is a national service organization dedicated to providing resources and support to caring Partners who envision a nation where no one in the Military Community lacks the mental, spiritual, physical or material support needed to live a full and productive life. 

As a faith-based organization strategically based in Northbrook, Illinois, Military Outreach USA develops resources, tools and programs to be used to serve the Military Community. These programs and resources are then shared at no cost with our partners.

They say that you cannot keep a good man down, and certainly this soldier is not going to simply fade away.

Now, I must be off to pour more Ale. It can cure ails.

And just as The General, as a young Knight, found the few moments in the heat of battle to say a prayer over the three men killed at his feet, so please, you pray too.

Men go to war, generally not having a personal dog in the fight. We are well aware in the west that much of the fighting we do is to defend our nations or those of our friends. Occasionally we embark on punative wars. But the men involved on both sides are MEN. All the same. We all bleed, We all fart. We all would prefer to be at home. But our soldiers' job is to kill the enemy, or else be killed by the enemy. 

Modern armies - particularly the US forces, and to only a smaller extent those of Oz and GB and Canada and NZ - have training regimes that emphasise 'hating' the enemy. Troops 'demonise' the enemy. This is not a good thing to do and training regimes MUST change. 

I was a warrior, paid to kill the enemy, not to hate him. So was young Lt Mukoyama. His sudden insight took him by surprise.  I was fortunate to have a Sergeant who knew what was needed. Men must be trained not to be suprised by this obvious insight.  They must expect it. 

Since the General's day, the moral codes have loosened.  Disastrously.  But deep down it is in our genes. We are Human being made by God. Young men go into the military, many without a firm moral foundation. The military ethos must start from square one with many of them and include defences of the spirit as well as how to clean a weapon. 

They must be taught basic respect for human life, even when they are obliged to take it. They must love their enemies.

Pray for our young men. And those young women who step up.

Best to pray before battle. For oneself and one's enemy.



  1. This one has no solution. The nation must have a military, it has to get them from somewhere and conscription isn’t good. It places a premium on “good” generals or those the troops feel will keep them alive better. If going into combat, who do you want - a Mad Dog who wins but kills half his troops, a PCist who’s all for equality and diversity ... or a career commander who achieves a result with least casualties?

    1. The trooper has little choice in his commander. The Good General is way above the pay grade of 95% of the army who do as they are told and with what they are given. The issue here is the troop or the junior Officer, the NCO, and of course the enemy. They are the ones who meet on the field. The most important one and the one who has to be at his best is the MAN, whatever his rank. For the protection of his mind and soul his emotional future, he must wear soul-armour to match his body armour. The Best General is the one who can make sure he is supplied with it and has made sure they know how to use it.

      Personally.... I have had many Commanders. Probably number in the 20's. Of them just three stand out. Excellent men. Great leaders. Only one was a 'General' (an Air Rank).

      No solution? I disagree. There are soldiering skills which have to be taught, trained, developed. Protecting oneself is included. What is needed is a better idea of what constitutes the self and make sure the training covers all important aspects.

      Crikey it is not long ago a chap simply bled to death on the field. Now we have a medical response undreampt of 100 years ago. There is no reason to think that the front and back ends of service cannot be developed and improved, and so reduce the wicked waste of vets' PTSD suicides.

  2. My friend,

    This was one of the best ones I have read from you. It brought tears to my eyes.....

    Thank you:)

    1. I hope not from my tortured phrases. :) It is a subject of some importance and simple sympathy can bring one to tears. The song does that to me.

  3. This is not a recent phenomenon. My grandfather fought in the First World War, at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He returned to Australia a very bitter angry man and he displayed all the symptoms we later started to see in Vietnam vets.

    My grandfather believed he'd been used, manipulated and lied to. He had nothing against the Germans or the Turks but the war left him with a life-ling hatred of the English. He did not believe he had been fighting in a just war, or in a war to defend his country. He believed that he'd fought in a cynical grubby imperialist war for the benefit of the English ruling class. And he was right.

    When you send young men to fight unjust wars they're going to end up angry and bitter. They're going to have moral wounds.

    And how many of our countless wars have truly been just wars? How many of our wars were fought to defend our own country? I can think of one offhand that qualifies.

    1. I fought in a Just War. Indonesia attacked Malaysia. 180 million vs 10 million. Malaysia was 'brand new', having been formed from various territories that had been under British protection. Indonesia wanted them but had no historical claim. Malaysia did not have the wherewithall to defend itself, so Britain did it for them. I was there and considered it a 'Good' thing.

      I am sorry to hear of your Grand-dad's experience. It was not uncommon and his angst was as manufactured by anti-british sentiments as by any reality of 'elites'. The Gallipoli disaster was severely overblown by certain Australian elements (Bean?) despite the British losses being nearly three times that of the Oz forces. All were brave men. The campaign was poorly focused, which often happens. Wars are very messy.

      As for 'not having anything against' this nation or that, the issue is who is justified, not who is ignorant of the factors. I mentioned that most troops do not have a personal dog in the fight. Some, by virtue of having home and hearth attacked, do, of course. Others come to the aid of their friends. Perhaps your grand-dad did not consider the Commonwealth forces and nations his friends.

    2. The Gallipoli disaster was severely overblown by certain Australian elements (Bean?) despite the British losses being nearly three times that of the Oz forces. All were brave men.

      Oh I agree about that. The British soldiers were as much the victims as the Australian soldiers.

      Others come to the aid of their friends. Perhaps your grand-dad did not consider the Commonwealth forces and nations his friends.

      Probably not, but if so he had a point. He was an Australian nationalist, not a British nationalist. It was not Australia's war. If the British decided they wanted to get mixed up in a pointless war that was none of their business either that was their problem.

      I've never had anything whatsoever against the English, but I can see no reason why Australians should fight their wars for them. I can also see no reason why we should fight America's wars, or Israel's wars, or anyone else's wars. There's a lot to be said for countries minding their own business.

      But then I have a great distrust for internationalism and for any kind of internationalist institution, whether it be the UN, the EU, the Commonwealth, NATO, the British Empire or ANZUS.

    3. In 1914 the vast majority of the Oz population were British. The men who went to war were Volunteers, just as the British men were until 1916. Those Oz men considered themselves British even though they were newly Independant. Britain was considered as a Parent. Men went to defend the 'Home'.

      WW2 was a different population but to say that that war was none of Oz's bizzo would be equally wrong. Germany and Japan had an agreement of how to divide up Oz. Tasmania was to be German. The Mainland, Japanese. Of course Australia was not fighting someone elses war.

    4. DforD, I am sorry for my slow response. I also have a personal family history memory from WWI leading into WWII:

      PTSD was not recognised let alone understood at that time.

  4. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much approximately
    this, such as you wrote the e-book in it or something. I believe that you
    just could do with some percent to drive the message home
    a little bit, however other than that, this is wonderful blog.
    A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

    1. My ego does not need stroking. My Supplier has the credit: the errors are mine. Have a fine Ale while you ponder. And return soon with a pertinent comment, to do with the content ideas and views.

  5. In addition to my comment (above) to DforD the upsetting thing for me in the UK is that our veterans who are suffering trauma due to their service to their country, are not supported, practically or emotionally after they leave their armed service. There are many that end up homeless...

    The homelessness also applies to those how have not suffered trauma, but have not been given advice and help to set themselves up in civilian society.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..