Concept walkthrough: designing for soldiers with moral injury

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When soldiers return from war, they often suffer from moral injury, which is caused by “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations may be deleterious in the long-term, emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally, spiritually, and socially.” (Litz 2009)

Moral injury often leads to isolation, guilt, and a wide range of difficulties during a soldier’s transition back to the “normalcy” of civilian life. A very unfortunate consequence is that more and more soldiers each year are turning to suicide.


Our solution revolves around storytelling. We wanted to enable and encourage soldiers to share their stories, while at the same time enabling and encouraging the general public to read the stories and gain a better understanding of the soldiers’ experiences at war.

Our design consists of a web application and public display. Through the web application, soldiers can share and read stories, as well as view support networks. The general public can also read stories and view the support maps. The public display is simply a large screen that slowly scrolls soldiers’ stories in multiple columns. To get a better understanding of our concept, view this walkthrough.

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  • 1. The end of Marine SergeantVirginia Shaw’s thirddeployment to Iraq signaledthe end of her eight years ofservice, and she was ready tohead home and finally start afamily with her husband.
  • 2. A couple months after herreturn, Virginia’s feelings ofregret kept her isolated fromher community, making hertransition back to student lifeat University of Michigandifficult at best.
  • 3. Virginia is still afraid to getclose to her loved onesbecause of the pain and guiltof losing three soldiers in herunit. She couldn’t find a wayto communicate herstruggles.
  • 4. During her Marinedecompression period, shewas told about a websitewhere soldiers could sharetheir experiences and helptheir communities understandwhat the soldiers have beenthrough during deployment.
  • 5. Virginia browses the site andreads through some of theseemingly endless storiessubmitted by other soldiersand veterans. She identifieswith many of the stories, andeventually feels safe enoughto share her own experiences.
  • 6. Virginia writes her story. Ittakes a while, but she feelsbetter afterwards. After sheuploads it, she sees that shecan share it with others. Shewants to send it to herhusband but she doesn’t feelready for that yet, so saves itin her account.
  • 7. Virginia then sees a link to amap. The map shows circlesof support, generated by thenumber of people who haveshared and read stories ineach location.
  • 8. Virginia sees informationabout a public installation thatscrolls stories from thewebsite. She wants herhusband, Ethan, to have adeeper understanding of whatshe went through overseas, soshe emails him directions tothe installation.
  • 9. Ethan follows the directionsand visits the publicinstallation. While there, hereads many of theexperiences shared by otherveterans. He can hear theirstories and begins tounderstand what his wifemust have gone throughwhile at war.
  • 10. When he gets home, he tellsVirginia about the installation.A few weeks later, Virginiafeels comfortable enough torevisit her collection ofmessages and send herhusband stories she shared.
  • 11. A year later, Private First ClassAlex Black has an even moredifficult transition home. Withthe loss of his best friend duringan intense small arms fight, andbecause of a number ofquestionable orders by hisCO, the moral injuries hesustained weighed on himheavily.
  • 12. Upon his return home, Alexwas encouraged to share hisstory on the website so thecommunity could get a betterunderstanding of hisexperiences. He thought itwas a waste of time, but didit anyway.
  • 13. Alex still found it difficult toadapt to civilian life. Hereluctantly visited his schooladvisor, who told Alex thatshe understood where he wascoming from. Alex didn’tbelieve this was possible, andfelt that his advisor couldn’tpossibly understand what hewent through.
  • 14. However, Alex’s advisor toldhim a story she read on thewebsite about a SergeantVirginia Shaw. Alex realizedthat his advisor mightactually understand him afterall.
  • 15. Through the sharing andreading of these stories, weenvision the severity of moralinjury for soldiers to lessen astime goes on, which will helpsoldiers return to civilian lifewith less difficulty, and lowerthe suicide rate amongveterans in the United States.