Until they are released from the military, troops of all services are under compulsory service at all hours of the day. Even when they are off duty, their behavior must represent the service in an exemplary manner. Misdeeds during their off-duty hours can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the Congressionally ratified law governing all legal aspects of military service, primarily the conduct of trials and non-judicial punishment for soldier misconduct. While the UCMJ covers just about any behavior you can imagine, there are also catch-all articles that address “conduct unbecoming” in which the service-member can be punished for almost any behavior that is considered as bringing discredit upon the military service he or she is serving under. Since the troops belong to the services so completely, fair and just treatment by their leaders is a monumentally moral issue. Thus, violations by the leader under these conditions is magnified greatly in significance.
Another related reason why leadership failures or misdeeds are such an egregious moral violation is because, under the conditions mentioned above, troops sacrifice so much and work so hard for the military. There’s an implied contract between troops and their leaders which makes the tremendous sacrifices, the hard duty, and the discomfort bearable. Troops bear up under these difficult conditions willingly because they expect that, when the chips fall, when it is really critical, their leaders will do the right thing and will take care of them. In the eyes of the troops, leadership is a sacred trust that is completely and selflessly committed to the welfare of subordinates. At least, that is what they expect and believe. However, when they sacrifice so much and reach the point that they need their leader’s support during a time of hardship or when they look to their leader for courageous, clear, and morally unambiguous decisions and actions in the chaos of combat, if their leaders fail them, it is like a knife to the heart, a gut shot, that can take all their courage away in an instant, leaving them confused and shocked. It is such failures in a crucial time that can morally wound a soldier so deeply, causing the shattering of their worldview and bringing on the grief and pain of PTSD. It was this tremendous moral violation by leaders and the resulting mental and emotional wounds that Dr. Shay discovered was at the root of his patients’ greatest pain, shock, and bewilderment.
I pray that you will be filled with His peace that passes all understanding, with His limitless power, and with His overflowing Joy. I pray that you will be a useful instrument in the hands of the Master, exemplifying His love wherever you live and wherever you may encounter people throughout your week.