Navy Cross Recipient Talks Suicide, Moral Injury; Says Combat Puts Troops Into “God” Role

An American soldier carries child from Cam Xe village Vietnam Aug. 22, 1966, moments before artillery bombardment. Former U.S. Marine infantry officer and Navy Cross recipient, Karl Marlantes, says problems arise in war when young soldiers in combat are forced to play the role of God, which can lead to moral injuries and suicidal thinking when they return home. “A large number commit suicide, and end up on drugs and alcohol. It is those we need to look after,” said Marlantes, Rhodes Scholar and author of “What It’s Like To Go To War.” (Horst Faas / AP)

Karl Marlantes

FULL SHOW: What It’s Like to Go to War

Moyers & Company, July 27, 2012

America has been at war for over a decade now, with millions of soldiers having seen death and dying up close in Afghanistan and Iraq. But most Americans, watching comfortably on their TVs and computers, witness mostly to statistics, stump speeches, and “expert” rhetoric, don’t get what’s really going on there.

Bill talks to Karl Marlantes — a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran, Rhodes Scholar, author, and PTSD survivor — about what we on the insulated outside need to understand about the minds and hearts of our modern warriors. Marlantes shares with Bill intimate stories about how his battlefield experiences both shaped and nearly destroyed him, even after returning to civilian life.

’Thou shalt not kill’ is a tenet you just do not violate, and so all your young life, that’s drilled into your head. And then suddenly, you’re 18 or 19 and they’re saying, ‘Go get ‘em and kill for your country.’

And then you come back and it’s like, ‘Well, thou shalt not kill’ again.

Believe me, that’s a difficult thing to deal with,” Marlantes tells Bill.

“You take a young man and put him in the role of God, where he is asked to take a life — that’s something no 19-year-old is able to handle.”

— Karl Marlantes, Navy Cross recipient, author of ‘What It’s Like To Go To War’

Watch the full interview of Karl Marlantes online:

Read interview of Time magazine military reporter Mark Thompson on the current epidmic of suicide in the U.S. military:

Links to resources for military members, veterans and their families:


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