Moral Injury and Veterans Symposium

Sep 15, 2015 8:30 am
University of San Francisco, McLaren Conference Center

Moral injury is now being recognized as a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but with roots as old as war itself.

Veterans who have participated in or witnessed intense human suffering and violence may experience moral injury which extends beyond psychological effects to a veteran’s spiritual, emotional, and social belief system. This has a major impact on veterans’ mental health and their interactions with loved ones, community, and service providers.

The symposium will provide an opportunity for educators, students, primary and behavioral health providers, faith-based communities, advocates and veterans to examine this multi-layered framework; through presentations, panels, and facilitated discussions. Attendees will increase their understanding of this profound wound and become culturally and trauma-informed advocates for veterans.

Join us on September 15, 2015 at the University of San Francisco.

This event is hosted by Swords to Plowshares’ Institute for Veteran Policy and the University of San Francisco’s Peace & Justice Studies Program and Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service & the Common Good.

Six (6) continuing education credits are available for:
MFT, LPCC, LEP, and LCSW professionals licensed in California.

University of San Francisco
McLaren Conference Center

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
8:30 AM – 4:30 PM


  • James Beneda – Iraq veteran (US Army) and PhD candidate, UC Santa Cruz
  • Michael Blecker – Vietnam veteran, Executive Director at Swords to Plowshares
  • Paul Cox – Vietnam veteran, Veterans for Peace and Swords to Plowshares Board Member
  • Dyan Ferguson – Honoring the Path of the Warrior
  • Fr. Paul Fitzgerald – University of San Francisco President
  • Starlyn Lara – Iraq veteran (US Army), Women Veteran Program Manager at Swords to Plowshares
  • Ken MacLeish – Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society and Anthropology at Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science
  • Geoff Millard – Iraq veteran (US Army), Policy Associate, Swords to Plowshares
  • Delores Mondragon – indigenous woman veteran, PhD candidate at UC Santa Barbara
  • Eli Painted Crow – indigenous woman veteran (US Army)
  • Susan Pangelinan – veteran, Behavioral Health Agency Coordinator for the California National Guard
  • Kathleen Pierce – Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Oakland Vet Center
  • Elizabeth Stinson – Executive Director Trauma Assessment Project
  • Paul Sullivan – Gulf War veteran (US Army), Deputy Secretary Communications and Public Affairs for the California Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Fred Tittle – US Marine Corps Chaplain (Ret)


Morning Ceremony: 8:30 AM

Native American veterans from Turtle Women Rising will provide a morning welcome song with their drum, Lunar De Fuerza, bringing a message to our communities of peace and support for military veterans. They will also give veterans who are present an opportunity to participate in the drum and feel her presence.

Opening Remarks: 9:30 AM

  • USF President Fr. Paul Fitzgerald
  • Swords to Plowshares Executive Director Michael Blecker

Intro to Moral Injury: 9:45 AM

Geoff Millard will provide an overview of moral injury, its impact on mental health, and implications for treatment.

Veteran Panel: 10:15 AM

Veterans from Vietnam, Gulf War, and Iraq will provide narratives of moral injury and the impact on transition from military service to the community.

Perspectives Panel: 11:45 AM

Perspectives panel discussion will present on the multi-layered effects of moral injury from the perspectives of research, faith, health and social services, and community care.

Lunch Break: 1:00 PM

Breakout Sessions: 2:00 PM

  • Women veterans will discuss the changing roles of women in service and the impact of increased combat exposure on their moral foundation.
  • Vietnam veterans and advocates will speak to the then un-named concept of moral injury during the Vietnam War when community for the first time did not embrace its veterans.
  • Native American veterans share the experience of witnessing oppressed people in service, warfare as an injury to the soul, and how the Native American community supports the veteran and shares in the burden of their war experience.

Breakout Sessions: 3:15 PM

  • Spirituality and moral injury breakout will provide context for faith-based explorations into moral injury, and the veteran reconnection to their spiritual self.
  • Mental health experts will discuss the intersection of moral injury with mental health trauma, and the often unexplored causal link between moral injury and suicide.
  • Researchers will discuss the emerging research on moral injury and implications for veteran health and treatment.

Close and Reflection: 4:15 – 4:30 PM

Feature image: Huffington Post, Scott Olson (Getty Images)