On Ukraine

I have been asked by the leadership of the Duke Military Association to comment on the war in Ukraine. I am certainly not an authority in defense policy or international relations. I’ll leave that to my distinguished colleagues at the Sanford School of Public Policy, who are nationally recognized experts in those area.

But, for those of us who have fought in a war—mine was Vietnam, 1970—and witnessed first-hand its horrific effects, there are certain aspects of this war in Ukraine that resonate with me.

The first is the overwhelming courage and steadfast patriotism of the Ukrainian people. We can learn a lot from the sacrifices they are making to secure freedom for their democracy.

The second is the unremitting tragedy and sadness of watching the horrific effects of this war on the Ukrainian people…the separation of families, the needless injuries, and the senseless deaths. It is on this last point that I want to dwell a bit.

In 1988, at the behest of the then editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, the regional business publication for the Chicago area where I lived, I was asked to write about my experience in the Vietnam War. There is one particular paragraph from that article that I want to cite that I think is particularly relevant to the tragedy in Ukraine.

“Only the most hardened souls could not he deeply moved by what they saw and experienced in Vietnam. The broken bodies of your buddies, the body bags stacked alongside the airstrip, the abject poverty and hopelessness of the Vietnamese people–a people who have been ravaged by war for thousands of years–all took their toll. What a graphic, stark counterpoint to the life-long lessons learned by this Jesuit-educated Irish Catholic who has been steeped in the philosophy of the absolute sanctity of all human life and the theology of all mankind doing works for the Greater Glory of God.”

We have a name for feelings like that now. We call it “moral injury”.

And, it is this sense of “moral injury” that I experience, as I witness the tragedy of the war in Ukraine unfold before me on the nightly news….the overwhelming sadness of the suffering and death of the Ukrainian people…the utter disregard of the sanctity of all human life…and the total and complete rejection of doing works for the Greater Glory of God.

God bless the people of Ukraine. They deserve our support…and, even more important, our prayers.


Paul A. Dillon

Adjunct Instructor

Sanford School of Public Policy

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