Coyote Brown’s Little Book of Psychobabble

The Price of Combat (After the Smoke Clears)

Relief, Self-Blame and Other Emotions: “My world was turned inside out.”  The mind is its own place and in itself can make heaven of hell, a hell of heaven (Milton – Paradise Lost).  “Thank God it Wasn’t Me.”  Then my world was turned inside out.  One of the guys that I had come to know and respect and I called a friend, was killed.  He died in front of me and I couldn’t do anything about it.  All of the ways I’d dealt with death up to that time were of no use to me now.  I felt guilty that I couldn’t do anything to prevent it.  I felt “better him than me” and then I felt guilty about feeling that.  I felt alone.  I felt the loss of a friend.  I felt that if it happened to him, it could happen to me.  I was sickened by the way he died.  I was pissed that the enemy could do this to my friend.  But we were in the middle of a firefight.  I didn’t have time to dwell on it so I had to put off feeling anything until later.  At his memorial service I cried (Tom Hain – Vietnam Veteran).

You are Only as Sick as Your Secrets.  “It’s all my fault.”  Children of recently divorced parents are often convinced at some gut level that the demise of the marriage is because of them.  They think that if they had just been better kids the divorce would not have happened.

The Power of the Debrief.  “Pain Shared is Pain Divided.”  Say we are going to debrief the individuals after a traumatic incident.  All the participants are present – including the radio operators, who should always be included, since they could be living in hell and very much in need of “filling in the gaps” through the debriefing process.  Many of the participants walk into the debriefing with the weight of the world on their shoulders, thinking, “It’s all my fault.”  One might even say it out loud.  “Man, I think this was all my fault.”  Another says, “No, I think it might be my fault.”  Still another says, “No, I blew it, because I should have done it differently.”  As the debriefing unfolds, each member figures out that it cannot be everyone’s fault and by the time it ends, each person walks out with his fair share of the blame.  They came in with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and they walk out with their fair share.

Pain shared is pain divided.   They must be there for each other to “divide the pain.”

By the way, the rest of the equation is “Joy Shared is Joy Multiplied.”

First the pain is divided and then the joy is multiplied.  “Thank God it Wasn’t You.”  After a horrific experience, such as the loss of a buddy, it can be a powerful shock to hear yourself think, “Thank God it wasn’t me.”  Then the shock may change to shame, which makes you think, “I wish it was me.  I want it to be me. I wish I were dead.”  In addition to this, you might very well be convinced that “It’s all my fault” and you have not had the debriefing that will help you fill in the gaps and divide your pain.  You are at one of the lowest points in your life.  Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of nine books dealing with the natural phenomenon of dying, says there is a set of response stages to death: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance.  You might walk in the door after your horrible day and run smack into an angry spouse!  Someone tried to kill their loved one and they feel helpless and frustrated that there is nothing they can do.  At first, they denied what happened but, then they feel anger.  It is important, therefore, that right now, while you are calm and rational, you ask yourself: Who are they really angry at?  Are they angry at you?  No.  They are angry at the world that tried to harm their loved one and, in their confusion, they might displace that anger onto you.  Once again, can you see how this might distance you from your loved ones when you need them the most?  You are a warrior.  We talked before about surviving gunshot wounds.  If you can take a bullet and drive on, you can certainly take a little displaced anger and drive on.  Do not let your loved one’s confusion and misplaced anger distance you from them at a time when you need them most.  Hug them, hold them and cherish them.  Wait for their emotions to pass and know that they will still be there when you need them.  And you will be there for them in the years to come, because your warrior spirit prepared you to survive this challenge.


Please have a safe Memorial Day while honoring our fallen.

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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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