To find out how heavy the burden of killing actually was, Maguen, who is now a staff psychologist at the V.A. Medical Center in San Francisco, began combing through databases in which veterans of conflicts dating back to the Vietnam War were asked if they had killed someone while in uniform. In some cases, the veterans were also asked whom they killed — combatants, prisoners, civilians. Maguen wanted to see if there might be a relationship between taking another life and debilitating consequences like alcohol abuse, relationship problems, outbursts of violence, PTSD. The results were striking: Even when controlling for different experiences in combat, she found, killing was a “significant, independent predictor of multiple mental health symptoms” and of social dysfunction.
In San Francisco, Maguen convened groups where veterans came together and talked about the killing they had done. In the V.A. no less than