That is the bond of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day. Lose one and it is the same as losing a spouse or a brother, and when it is a human who causes the loss of a fellow warrior’s life, it becomes personal; If you let survivor’s guilt destroy you, then you have given the enemy one more life, one more victory. And we will not give them that life! If you are a survivor and you do not proceed carefully, there are two ways you can spin out of control: through inappropriate aggression towards others and inappropriate aggression towards yourself. Warriors must guard against both.

Justice, Not Vengeance

Do not dehumanize those who disagree with us, or even hate us. Filling ourselves with hate is neither necessary to combat for those who hate us, nor is it productive. The professional warrior is one who is cold, dispassionate and regretful in his duty when forced to kill. For our purposes, justice and not vengeance simply means that warriors swear a solemn oath to justice. Should they violate that oath and seek vengeance, it will destroy them. The surest way to a dose of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is to commit an atrocity or a criminal act that violates your code of ethics.

– First, remember that unmanaged stress is a major destroyer and disabler of warriors.

– Ahead of time, the way to be psychologically predisposed to become a stress casualty is to be a sheep: live in denial, fail to stay on the warrior’s path, avoid training, don’t prepare and don’t equip yourself for that moment when the wolf comes.

– Physically, the way to predispose yourself to be a stress casualty is to have your body already stressed when the traumatic moment arrives: This includes malnutrition, dehydration and, most importantly, sleep deprivation.

– Ahead of time, the warrior must confront that dirty four-letter word “kill” and the responsibility to use deadly force when the situation requires it. This ensures that at the moment of truth you will not panic, you will be more likely to deter your opponent, and you will be better able to live with your actions afterwards. Thus the warrior’s mind and body must be ready, but there is one other component we have not covered: the spirit. Your mind, body and spirit must be prepared before combat, and thus we have addressed the spiritual or religious aspects of killing. Afterward, the key to preventing a stress disorder is to conduct the debriefings, de-linking the memories from the emotions, multiplying the joy and dividing the pain.

There is one last ingredient in the equation, and that is to understand that of all the actions you could take in combat, the one most likely to destroy you is to commit an atrocity or a criminal action.

Longfellow said: Every guilty deed
 holds in itself the seed 
of retribution and undying pain. (The Masque of Pandora)

You can almost think of “justice not vengeance” as what the Bible calls the “Breastplate of Righteousness.” As long as you are doing the right thing, as long as you are following the rules and doing what your duty calls you to do, then there is true legal and mental protection in that. Again Shakespeare said it best, calling this “A peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.”

“I’m not going to commit some criminal act.” Good, but the reality is you do not know what you are going to do when your world comes unglued unless you prepare your mind, body, soul and spirit ahead of time.

Justice Not Vengeance. You have sworn a solemn oath to justice. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Vengeance will destroy you. Remember, PTSD is the gift that keeps on giving. It impacts not only you in the years to come, but also your family and friends. So now, ahead of time, while you are calm and rational, think it through: whoever you think you are avenging would not want you to pay the price of your life and your loved ones lives in the years to come.

Consider this incident that happened to a young Marine Captain in Beirut in the spring of 1982. The Israeli Army was advancing into Lebanon, with tanks in the lead, when word came down to a small band of Marines to stop the Israelis. An entire army, one of the most competent in the world, was rumbling up the road with tanks in the lead, and the American Marines were waiting for them, armed with nothing bigger than M-16 rifles. But orders are orders, and Marines are Marines, so a young captain, holding an M1911, .45 automatic pistol in his hand, walked out into the middle of the road before the advancing army. He stopped the lead Israeli tank, turned it around and sent them all back.

– Did that pistol in his hand deter and frighten the entire Israeli army? No. But that pistol represented the might, the majesty and the authority of the United States of America in the hands of a very brave man who was doing what his nation wanted him to do. Those Israelis knew that if they continued forward, they would have to kill that young Marine, and along with him came all his friends, a whole nation of friends bringing a whole world of hurt, and the price was too high for the Israelis to pay.

The Nazis and the Imperial Japanese in World War II committed many, horrendous, brutal and large scale atrocities. Unfortunately, the allied side also committed some.

Today our warriors are held to the highest standards, and that is a good thing.

Whether you are a soldier or Marine in close combat or a peacekeeper in a distant land you are held to a far higher standard than that of the average person. As such, you must dedicate yourself now, ahead of time, to the concept of justice, not vengeance.

Then your midbrain starts talking (be warned, this is natural):

Guilt – “I wish it were I.” “This is my entire fault.”

Survivor guilt: “Life not death and justice not vengeance.”

Shakespeare wrote about this when he said (King Henry V): 
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition: 
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.


Pain shared is pain divided (D. Grossman)



By David Devaney

David K. Devaney SgtMaj USMC Retired 2009 City of Hit Iraq with PTTDavid was born in Geneva New York and graduated from Geneva High School in 1980. He joined the Marine Corps on a guaranteed Infantry contract in April of 1983. After graduating boot camp he was stationed in Hawaii with 3rdBattalion 3rd Marines (3/3). While assigned to 3/3 he held billets as a rifleman, fire team leader, and squad leader. During 1986 Corporal (Cpl) Devaney was selected as a member of Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Platoon, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marine. Upon graduation of Scout Sniper School he was assigned to the Scout Sniper Section of 3/3 STA Platoon. During his second deployment as a Scout Sniper with 3/3 he was promoted to Sergeant (Sgt). After a tour on the drill field from 1989-1991 Sgt Devaney returned to STA 3/3 were he deployed two more times. During 1994 Sgt Devaney was selected to the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSgt) and ordered to III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF), Special Operation Training Group (SOTG); while at SOTG SSgt Devaney was assigned as a Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) and Urban Sniper Instructor and Chief Instructor. At the time III MEF SOTG Instructors were members of Joint Task Force 510 (JTF 510 CT); a Counter Terrorism Task Force. In 1998 he deployed to Operation Desert Fox with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/4 and was attached to Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 572/594 as a sniper. SSgt Devaney deployed again, during 2000, with ODA 135/136/132 to Malaysia as member of JTF 510, working with the Malaysian National Police. After leaving SOTG Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) Devaney was assigned to Company A 1st Battalion 7th Marine, and spent much of his time training the Scout Snipers of 1/7. Just before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, he was selected to the rank of First Sergeant (1stSgt) and led 270 Marines, sailors, and soldiers during combat – receiving a Bronze Star Medal for destroying the enemy and their will to fight. During 2004 1st Sgt Devaney was ordered to duty as the Inspector Instructor Staff 1st Sgt for 2nd Beach and Terminal Operations Company, Savannah, Georgia. During 2007 he was selected to the rank of Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) and received orders to Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 (VMAQ-4) stationed at Cherry Point, NC. There he trained a CADRE which in turn trained a massive Quick Reaction Force in combat operations. After two more deployments to Iraq SgtMaj Devaney received orders to Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico, VA. SgtMaj Devaney retired from the Marine Corps on 31 December 20013. He now works as an adjunct combat instructor at the “Crucible’’ in Fredericksburg, VA. David is also on the Board of Directors of the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association. David’s published work: Books Devaney, D.K. (2007). Surviving combat: Mentally and physically (3rd edition). 29 Palms, CA: USMC. Devaney, D.K. (2015). They Were Heroes: A Sergeant Major’s Tribute to Combat Marines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. Articles Devaney, D.K. (2011) Enough Talk of Suicide, Already! Proceedings Magazine. Devaney, D.K. (2011) Can PTSD Be Prevented Through Education? Proceedings Magazine. Devaney, D.K. (2012) PTSD Is Not Cancer. The Marine Corps Gazette. Devaney, D.K. (2012) Women in Combat Arms Units. The Marine Corps Gazette.

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