The exhausting pace of work, the constant state of danger, specific combat incidents, or encounters of the horrible aftermath of combat are all possible sources for the moral injury that Dr. Shay wrote about.  And those moral injuries can develop into PTSD.  Another source of the moral injury, as I found in my own experience, was leadership responsibility.  I discussed this topic with another combat veteran, a close friend of mine, when I was working as a Army civilian in Alexandria, Virginia, after I retired from the Army.  I thought I was alone in feeling this particular pain, but it was comforting to hear that someone else struggled with it.  The pain I’m speaking of is the great guilt that a leader feels in combat when people that he or she is responsible for, or in command of, are wounded or dying.  Ironically, the people who were dying and whose deaths were so deeply affecting me were not directly under my responsibility.  All of the people that I was directly responsible for came home at least physically sound, thanks be to God who answered my many prayers lifted up for my people before we deployed and while we were deployed. 

I cannot imagine how much greater my pain might have been if I had lost any of the people on my team: people that I personally knew, people whom I worked with daily, people I led, mentored, counseled, evaluated, and taught, people who, in the turmoil of combat duty, had become as close as family.  I could be thankful at least that all of my team members would return without injury.  Regardless, even though I only personally knew a couple of the soldiers who died during our combat deployment, somehow I felt responsible for and felt grief over each of the many deaths in our command.  To this day, I cannot fully explain why I felt such strong guilt or a sense of responsibility for those people.  Perhaps it is because I have always been a “people person,” oriented on others rather than on self.  Some might say that I led with my heart.  Perhaps this personality trait of mine made me more susceptible.   Also, perhaps my moral reasoning was not very sound in the pressure of combat operations, a situation in which “the stakes were high,” as Dr. Shay would describe it.   

I think perhaps I felt this way because I was a high level leader in our organization.  I was a lieutenant colonel with over 20 years of military service, working directly for our deputy commander, a very senior full bird colonel who was working in a general officer’s slot.   I was also working for our commanding general (a one-star working in a two-star slot) who was my boss’s immediate boss.  Having a high position in this organization, especially an organization that was so large, much larger than a typical division while we were deployed, I had a fair amount of power and influence.  So, I think that part of my guilt stemmed from knowing that, although I had power and influence, I was absolutely powerless to affect the dangerous situations that our soldiers were going through in every corner of Iraq on a daily basis.  I’ve often wondered what the leaders above me and around me were going through during this time with the rapidly escalating insurgency throughout 2005 that took so many of our troops from the road-side bombs (IEDs), the suicide bombers, and vehicle borne IEDs (VBIEDs), not to mention the persistent rocket and mortar attacks on all of our bases. 

I pray that you will walk in the light of His Limitless Love on this day that He has created.



04/05/2017 12:30am

This post is provide the good ideas regarding the leadership. Few people are become a good leader and provide the good tips to all people. All people is nothing to the good leader because only few people have this skill.

08/04/2017 5:38am

I don't have such problems, fortunately. I hope I won't need this information in the future.

08/10/2017 1:06am

I wish to feel his love. I need his love so much.


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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 


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