cover image What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars

What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars

David Wood. Little, Brown, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-26415-0

Wood, a longtime war correspondent, takes on the monumental task of conveying to civilians the emotional turmoil veterans endure upon returning home from war. Post-traumatic stress disorder tends to dominate headlines, but Wood focuses upon “moral injury”: the deep-rooted psychic trauma that grips people when they believe they have violated the profound taboo of killing another human. Though the book touches on other conflicts, including soldiers’ responses to discovering concentration camp survivors during WWII, this is primarily a powerful and gut-wrenching look at the 21st-century Americans who have faced multiple deployments in Afghanistan. Even as drill sergeants train soldiers in the dark arts of killing and surviving encounters with the enemy, the American military barely acknowledges the long-term repercussions. Wood probes how soldiers learn to cope with—or fail to recover from—these debilitating experiences and reveals how a few stalwart medical professionals help them deal with the types of profound pain that leave no visible scars. He also covers the work of chaplains tending to spiritually wounded veterans and grapples with the experiences of soldiers who have been sexually assaulted by comrades-in-arms. Wood delivers searing, elegantly told reportage on a little-understood and long-ignored facet of war. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Nov.)