Vets overcome scars of ‘moral injury’
Vets overcome scars of ‘moral injury’
Kelley Crampton
Kelley Crampton
AFA Journal intern

May 2018 – Lt. Col. Don Malin (Army NG, Ret.) remembers the constant, thunderous booms of mortar fire during his last tour in Iraq. “When I came home and heard my first thunderstorm or two, I thought I was under attack again,” he told AFA Journal.

Having been in the proximity of battle left its mark on this seasoned chaplain. The experience forced him to consider the scars on those who routinely went “outside the wire or rode in a convoy that was hit by enemy fire,” he said.

Malin wanted to create a tool to help heal the scars of fellow soldiers. He found an opportunity through Crosswinds Foundation, a multi-platform ministry focused on informing, instructing, and influencing culture with the gospel. Crosswinds founder Bob Waldrep helped Malin found CrossSwords under the Crosswinds umbrella. Together they created Invisible Scars, a film on post-traumatic stress disorder.

After releasing the PTSD documentary, CrossSwords produced Honoring the Code: Warriors and Moral Injury, highlighting moral injury and its distinction from PTSD.

Similar, not the same
“Some people come back and say these movies are … helping them more than the treatment they are getting for PTSD,” Malin said. “PTSD and moral injury are close in many ways, but they are not the same.”

Most people are familiar with PTSD, but moral injury occurs when soldiers do something, or failed to do something, and cannot forgive themselves. (See below.)

Both films provide touching and insightful interviews with military, medical, and social science experts addressing the effects, treatments, and hope for victims of PTSD and moral injury and the differences between the two.

Two major obstacles face these soldiers. First is the stigma that seeking mental help signifies weakness. Malin views it as the exact opposite: “It is a sign of strength to acknowledge you are having problems.”

The second obstacle is access to help. “Rural areas of my state of Mississippi, as with other rural areas across the country, are a far distance from the nearest Veterans Affairs office,” he said. “But something every little community has is a church. If we can get churches to be a source of help and encouragement to soldiers, that would be huge.”

But most churches do not know where to start. CrossSwords wants to be that place. When Malin secures an invitation to a church, he shows Honoring the Code, explains how that congregation can help, and emphasizes how Christ can forgive all sins.

“This is especially important for those dealing with moral injury,” he said. “If we can show soldiers Christ can forgive their sins, it will lead them to forgive themselves.”

But this cannot happen alone.

“God created us to be in community,” Malin said. That’s why part of his presentation is to educate churches and families about resources available to them such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans. “So many people don’t seek help because they don’t know what is out there. We want to share what kind of resources are out there.”  undefined

Forgive yourself?
While the phrase “forgiving yourself” is not in the Bible, it is often used by Christian pastors and counselors. Dr. Ray Rooney, editor of AFA’s The Stand, explained it this way: “When you are the offender, there is only asking and receiving. What you’re really talking about when you speak of forgiving yourself is accepting the offer of Christ (or someone else) to forgive and move beyond your transgression.”

Request a free CD of either video or invite Lt. Col. Don Malin to speak at an event at or call 205-327-8317

Invisible Scars and Honoring the Code are available online at Caution: Content of both films is intense and may be too much for young children.