Some people, like me, think that if you cannot get something such as a bad thought out of your mind, you should write about it; it might be therapeutic. Some warriors have found it to be helpful to write their memories down; it works for me.

Others might say this will re-traumatize the person. I could not disagree more. If you try to bury your memories, alive, they will likely return one day, and they will not be happy. Think about the times you have heard of nice people who all of the sudden snap and become predators. The simple truth is we all have the potential to become predators; 99% of us (humans) restrain our animal instincts when it comes to unjustified aggression.

If the thought or memory is an issue for you, it must be reoccurring; therefore trying not to think about it is impossible.

The Hurt Locker-Brian Turner

You think I am wrong? Try this. Pick anything you would like; an object, a thought, anything you want. Now, STOP thinking about it, right now; see, it is impossible. If fact, you may find this silly thought (from today) coming back to you for the rest of the day, or days, or even years.

Believe it or not, the fact that you are trying not to think about something the more likely it is that it will reoccur.

Now, if you take that memory that is reoccurring and think about it. I mean think about it and it alone, until you stop thinking about it. Sooner or later the memory should fade. Talking to your family and friends is great also because remember, “pain shared is pain divided” (D. Grossman).

Now, back to writing about it. You should write about good times and bad times. No one ever needs to see these writings; it is up to you.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner-Randall Jarrell

Below is an example of a writing by a warrior. This warrior was haunted by this incident until he wrote the following.

I See His Face Every Day of My Life, but That’s OK

He was about 25 years old, black hair, brown eye and appeared to be healthy. His only mistake was being brought up in Saddam’s twisted society. I rounded the corner of a building while patrolling in a small settlement just west of the Euphrates River and there he was. He was in the prone firing position and had an AKM assault rifle pointing at me. Without any thought, I raised my weapon and pressed one shot; he just lay there with his eyes open and head slumped to the right, starring at me. I had to make sure he was dead, because I saw no wound and no blood immediately. I did a dead check (eye-thump) and he had expired. Then I realized what had happened, I was aiming for the bridge of his nose and the round had hit him in his open mouth, went down his throat, and stopped somewhere in his torso. As I walked away, I noticed a small amount of blood coming from his mouth and forming into a pool.

I see this man’s face every day, but that’s OK because it was either him or me. It was a justifiable kill. The others I have had to kill are just slightly in my memory, but this one was different. I see him everyday. Never does a day go buy where he is not there with his head slumped to the right and staring at me. He is now my friend and I greet him each and everyday.

Note: Now, this warrior hardly ever has dreams, or even thoughts of his young Iraqi friend. He states that this memory seldom returns; usually, only, when there is a relevant topic at hand.

Think about that.



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About The Author

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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One Response

  1. Will Rodriguez

    Writing and/or talking about an incident is actually a psychological therapy technique. The exercise makes one relive the event in a less vivid manner than the actual experience and allows the individual to experience the emotions. In some this can desensitize the individual, allow those emotions to be expressed and/or create a level of acceptance/immunity or tolerance of the emotional impact of the event. The exercise especially if externally guided (a trained/certified & trusted individual is recommended) can help the individual understand why one feels the way one does I’m not a certified counselor but a counselor would ask how you felt at the moment, after and why. Seems you’ve done that already and come up with your answers.

    This situation probably stands out in your memory because of the personal nature of the engagement. “On Killing” by Grossman does an excellent job of explaining how the act of killing can have a much greater impact on the soldier doing the killing depending on the range and weapon used. I can’t recommend that book enough for the military professional or for anyone who wants to understand the psychology behind killing and how the Army tailored training to lower the average citizen’s threshold for using violence in combat.


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