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Sep262019

Book Review: Invisible Scars of War

Invisible Scars of War: A Veteran’s Struggle with Moral Injury. Dick Hattan. Woodstock Square Press, October 3, 2018, 188 pages.

Reviewed by T. L. Needham.

Invisible Scars of War: A Veteran’s Struggle with Moral Injury, by Dick Hattan, is a soldier’s testament of a war that continues to haunt and endure in America’s psyche and conscience, with a greater sense of guilt than pride. The war still haunts many of the countless veterans who served in this “police action,” including the author.

Dick Hattan grew up in a Chicago suburb as a devout Catholic. He attended Catholic schools and eventually enrolled in the Chicago Theological Seminary. But, the draft stalked him, and he decided to enlist and face the inevitable.

He served in the venerable 101st Airborne for nearly one year at base headquarters. He did not experience combat, and some people denied him the respect given to soldiers who faced the enemy in person. During his time “in-country,” he lived under the constant and real threat of sudden death from artillery, mortar, and enemy attacks of the base. The threat alone was enough to render an injured psyche and wounded soul. 

After his Vietnam service, he attended business school and eventually succeeded in the medical world as CEO of a hospital. But his heart and soul beckoned him as he struggled with his “realization that war is evil and unjust and that I am a man of peace.” He did serve in the war and needed to resolve that inner conflict. He was drawn to help other veterans write their stories, and he realized and revealed his moral injury.

A significant element of his struggle with guilt was derived from the conflicting values of the Catholic faith. The church ignored the commandment “Thou shall not kill” by its failure to take a stand against the Vietnam war until it was near the end. The Catholic Church opposed abortion, viewed it as killing, but did not oppose the killing of young people in our armed services and the innocent people of Vietnam.

He attempted to re-enter the Catholic seminary, but they rebuffed him three times. Faithful to his calling and determination, he achieved ordination in the Independent Catholic Church and then pursued a ministry in nursing homes and retirement communities.

As Hattan tells his story, he draws the reader into his suffering and anguish. One admires his determination to heal himself, and others too, who served and suffered the same moral injury of the soul. His story is inspiring, revealing, and very well told. He adds clarity to why our nation still has a wounded conscience and feels guilty as it struggles to validate a war it never won. Thank you, Dick Hattan, for sharing your story and revealing your heart and soul.

 

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