Moral Injury Themes in Latino Combat Veterans: A Qualitative Investigation
The current doctoral dissertation project was conceived in response to the unmet need for moral injury research in minority populations. As a result, the specific aims were to (1) collect high-quality, in-depth information on the wartime experiences of recently separated Latino combat veterans, and (2) conduct a focused, systematic investigation of the emerging moral injury construct as revealed in Latino veterans' combat narratives. Twenty-one (N = 21) Latino combat veterans were interviewed regarding potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs) that they may have experienced during military training or while on a combat deployment. The findings suggest that PMIEs may encompass a wider range of experiences than previously thought, and that ordinary combat experiences may occasion moral conflicts that develop into chronic moral injuries. Such experiences include being fired upon by an enemy combatant; learning about injuries or deaths of comrades, including suicides and suicide attempts; and seeing the remains of dead enemy combatants. The current findings also suggest that experiences of perceived ethnic or racial discrimination occurring during combat deployments may be experienced by Latino service members as moral injury events. Finally, the current findings suggest that PMIEs may also occur during military training and that such events may occasion lasting moral conflicts or deleterious psychological effects. Further research is needed to extend these findings to additional veteran groups, including female veterans and other ethnic minorities. Future research should also investigate the conditions, including state and trait characteristics, under which PMIEs are likely to occasion long-term negative consequences.