The Sidore Lecture Series Presents: Nancy Sherman "The Untold War: The Moral Toll of War"
Young Student Center - Mabel Brown Room
My introduction to the psyche of the soldier, in a sense, goes back to my father and my childhood. My dad was a WW II vet who never talked about "his" war, though he carried his dogtags on his keychain for 65 years. The war never left him; he took it to the grave; and he always felt that his burden was private. I suspect I always felt that the burden ought to be shared, or at least, that I ought to understand it better.
The chance came when I was appointed the first Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy in the mid-nineties. I had been an academic in ethics for most of my career, focused on ethics and the emotions, in ancient and modern philosophy. I also had a background and research training in psychoanalysis. For the first time in my life I became a civilian in a military world, and I began to understand better the secret world of my dad. I started teaching and writing about the moral challenges of going to war and returning home, and have been immersed in that research ever since. The issues couldn't be more urgent for a nation now fighting wars on two fronts for almost a decade.
The Untold War is my best effort at allowing soldiers to open up their hearts and tell their stories. I have listened to those stories with the ear of a philosopher and psychoanalyst, but also with the ear of a daughter, who always felt that she needed to understand more about what her father went through. And I have analyzed those stories in language that steps outside the academy-in terms my dad would have understood. I talk about the visible and invisible wounds of war; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and resilience; military suicide and its prevention; military honor, guilt, and shame. Military families need to know that we who do not have loved ones serving are doing our best to understand and help those who do.
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