“Moral Injury”— One Military Veteran Kills Teenager, Another Kills Himself
By Shepherd Bliss
12 December, 2013
Thirteen-year-old Andy Lopez was killed by sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22, as the boy walked home in his Latino neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California. The Iraq War veteran claims he mistook the eighth-grader’s toy rifle for a real one.
A month later another Army vet, Paul Duffy, took his own life nearby. Duffy, as some friends called him, was found by his wife hanging from a rope in the writer’s cabin he had built outside his Tomales home by the Pacific Ocean. Far more veterans of the American wars on Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan committed suicide than were killed in combat; the number of suicides by vets increases.
How might these two deaths be related?
Twenty members of the Veterans Writing Group, in which Duffy participated, gathered on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, for our seasonal all-day meeting, to remember our comrade. We sat in a circle in the comfortable home of a surviving World War II vet in the Redwood Empire of Sonoma County in Northern California. Many of us had participated in the group since near its inception over 20 years ago.
This group means a lot to me, as someone raised in a military family that moved to a new post about every three years. It has provided one of the longest-lasting relationships during my nearly 70 years of life, and has helped my writing and contributed to my mental health.
Many of us speak of the VWG as a “family” that adds stability, safety, security, and confidence to our lives, as well as something to look forward to.
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