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Old March 19, 2006, 12:29 PM   #51
garryc
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There seems to be almost an expectation that a "decent person" would suffer this way and if he did not then his humanity can be called into question.
And that is a correct expectation. After my shooting incident I was sent to the navy "shrink". I told him everything was cool and he told me to come back in a week. I told him I didn't think I needed to and he said, "That’s not a request, It's a direct order." He did that four times.

I started to be consumed by the thoughts of the incident and started drinking some, I never really drank before that. The thing is, when I would drink I tended to fight. After one such fight I was taken to the emergency room by the JAFP, who I was assigned to at the time, for an injured hand.
It just so happened that the Doc was on duty that night, as duty officer, and saw me in the EM room. He spoke to the marine SGT. and then ordered him to escort me to his office. In his office I went to sit down when he jumped up my A## and said he didn't tell me to sit and to stand at attention. At attention I took a 20 min A## chewing, which in the end broke the shell. (As it turned out I found that prior to medical school the Commander Dr. had been a combat Marine.)

Yeah, The incident affected me deeper than I wanted to acknowledge
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Old March 19, 2006, 12:45 PM   #52
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" And that is a correct expectation."

garyc,

If that is a correct expectation then it follows, doesn't it, that anyone who doesn't have such a reaction is not decent?

It is that what you want to say?


I am genuinely sorry that you suffered this way and I am not questioning your decency.


Some have that reaction, some don't. But if citizens and soldiers were better prepared for this by dealing with the philosophy and not just the psychology of killing, then such suffering may posssibly be reduced or, for some, eliminated.

That's the main point I'm trying to make.


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Last edited by Matis; March 19, 2006 at 01:20 PM.
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Old March 19, 2006, 01:21 PM   #53
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You're going to do a whole lot better after the fight, if you're not dead. Survive the fight, deal with it on your own terms, get whatever help you need to get, and then get on with your life. That's the reality of this situation.
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Old March 19, 2006, 01:24 PM   #54
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Yeah, The incident affected me deeper than I wanted to acknowledge
Bingo! No one wants to admit they might need help because they might be perceived as weak. You know, the "big tough guy image" would be shattered but there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The worst thing one can do is isolate themselves after such a horrific experience as taking another's life.

Like I said in my earlier post, some men actually seemed to enjoy killing the enemy while others simply saw it as a necessary job, a means of survival if you will. That does not mean that they had better morals then the others.

Now if you take these gang-bangers who do these drive-by shootings without any regard to innocent bystanders, not only are they immoral but they are evil also. I think they are the weak ones because they have to use their cars to shoot and run away like cowards. They're just like terrorists, they cover their faces and don't have the balls to stand and fight.

Sorry, I got a little carried away and way off topic.
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Old March 19, 2006, 02:04 PM   #55
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You can be the toughest SOB in the place but that wont help you much when life changing events happen that are beyond your control. I dont have firearms because I want to hurt somebody. I own firearms because I know that in a hearbeats time I can be that statistic on the frontpage. I will know what I will do when that moment comes. The mind is a funny thing, and medical science doesnt have all the answers yet. Taking a life has to be a life changing event even if you are legally and morally justified. Part of the preperation should be to learn about PTSD and related illneses. After all we arm ourselves with our firearms to defend ourselves, shouldn't we also arm our mind with knowledge to deal with PTSD or other stress that might occur after taking a human life? Makes sense to me. Some will say it could never happen to me..... it can happen to anyone.
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Old March 19, 2006, 11:08 PM   #56
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QUOTE} Bingo! No one wants to admit they might need help because they might be perceived as weak. You know, the "big tough guy image" would be shattered but there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The worst thing one can do is isolate themselves after such a horrific experience as taking another's life.{ QUOTE.

Actually it was in some ways my reaction to the situation, denial, freeze-up, ******* my pants. I was questioning my manhood in light of some pre-conception of toughness. I was only 20 at the time and we all know how 20 year old boys are. I was getting in fights I guess to prove my manhood, even though, like most boys, I didn't know what it really was. SO I'd say that was 50% of the problem.
The other 50% was the sight of someone dying by my hand. Even though he fired on me first, I still felt very bad and still saw the event over and over in my mind like a TV store video. The thing is, rationalizing your actions is only a step toward placing the incident into its proper perspective.
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Old March 19, 2006, 11:57 PM   #57
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#56
garryc
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QUOTE} Bingo! No one wants to admit they might need help because they might be perceived as weak. You know, the "big tough guy image" would be shattered but there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The worst thing one can do is isolate themselves after such a horrific experience as taking another's life.{ QUOTE.

Actually it was in some ways my reaction to the situation, denial, freeze-up, ******* my pants. I was questioning my manhood in light of some pre-conception of toughness. I was only 20 at the time and we all know how 20 year old boys are. I was getting in fights I guess to prove my manhood, even though, like most boys, I didn't know what it really was. SO I'd say that was 50% of the problem.
The other 50% was the sight of someone dying by my hand. Even though he fired on me first, I still felt very bad and still saw the event over and over in my mind like a TV store video. The thing is, rationalizing your actions is only a step toward placing the incident into its proper perspective.
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When I first heard of "PTSD" I blew it off as some kind of "feel-good"
psycho-babble B.S. When I read about a lot of Viet Nam vets having
it, I wrote them off as a lot of REMF crybabies looking for a handout
from the V.A.
When I got on the 'net', maybe 10 years ago, I eventually got around to
looking into this "PTSD" I had been reading about. It amazed me how
doctors who don't know me could read my mind, look into my soul.
I had a drastic change of attitude about this "PTSD" thing.
I haven't been to the V.A. about this, and I don't intend to go.
They have enough problems right now. Besides, the V.A. is a big
pain in the A** to deal with. Just realizing that I have a problem in a certain area has helped me to deal with it.
I guess it's like AA. The first step is realizing that there is a problem.

Semper Fi

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Old March 20, 2006, 04:42 AM   #58
garryc
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As far as having a problem with it today, I don't. Its a point of growth. I'd say its one of the factors that make me a good corrections officer, attention to detail and not giving into the habit of going through mindless repetitive motion without paying attention.

I didn't elect to kill someone, that was his choice. He might as well have shot himself because he put the course of events in motion, I was mearly the reaction to his action.
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Old March 20, 2006, 09:52 AM   #59
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After Effects of Taking Another's Life

The biggest, toughest Trooper I ever knew once had to kill an armed man as they were locked at contact distance in a lethal dance around each other, wrestling with their free arms as all the while both tried to bring their handguns into play. I recall that the Trooper related afterward that he repeatedly begged the soon to be DOA, "Mister, please don't make me kill you"!

Justifiable as this shooting obviously was, my Trooper suffered post-traumatic stress for months, and probably for years, with the results of his having to take another human's life. For some time, it looked like it might cause him to leave law enforcement for another line of work but he persisted and recently retired as a Lieutenant.

This particular Trooper was so physically rugged that he used to fight in Tough-Man contests (and win) and in training single-handedly TOSSED other SWAT team members through open windows where ordinarily two other guys would have to give them a boost.

The point is, despite the present state of the art critical incident debriefing techniques and counseling, etc., even the physically toughest individual can, and probably will, be troubled emotionally by being involved in a lethal confrontation.
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Old March 21, 2006, 06:33 PM   #60
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Glenn--

Thanks for starting one of the most important and thought-provoking threads in some time.
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Old March 22, 2006, 10:30 AM   #61
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Why, thanks - do you remember me from LFI-1 in Dallas. I had a broken left arm when I took the course!

If not, that's fine.
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Old March 22, 2006, 11:50 AM   #62
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I'm reading a some posts that present a kind of: "I would be justified, he would have had it coming, and that's that" attitude.

While "knowing" or acknowledging that you have the capacity to kill someone is a major factor in your ability to respond to a life-threatening situation, it is a far cry from understanding what the psychological responses would be from both you and the people close to you AFTER taking someone's life. And the beauty of it all is that it could hit you the next day or it could hit you 5 years later. But the fact of the matter is that at some point in time you're going to think about it in the lonely hours you have to yourself in the middle of the night, and it's going to change you.

And the truth is, only people who have experienced it know how it's going to change them....it's not something you can predict or even prepare for. Everyone else is completely clueless.

IMHO, there are two distinct topics involved in a discussion like this:
  1. How we will react (or think we'll react) to a life-threatening situation
  2. How we will react to our reaction.
First, we all romanticize it, we all want to believe in the back of our minds that when the **** hits the fan we're all Clint Eastwood, Doc Holliday, or Dan Daly. The truth of the matter is that nobody truly knows how they're going to react until they're put in that situation...and experience tells me that some of you are going to be surprised by the way you react. It's easy to sit here and confidently state: "if I needed to I wouldn't hesitate"... but you know what? Some people are going to hesitate, and you never know who it's going to be.

Secondly, you have a split-second to react to a situation, especially one where you must protect yourself or a loved one. However, you have a lifetime to analyze that split-second...and this is where your carefully constructed perception of yourself is picked apart and examined and questioned.
Could you have made decisions earlier in the day that would have precluded the situation, could you have said something, could you have reacted differently.
It is only after things have a chance to sink in that you realize exactly how much danger you were in...and how much danger those close to you were in. It is only after things have a chance to sink in that you begin to question your training choices and priorities, or lack thereof. It is only after the reality of having ended someone's life sinks in and you are thanking God for the chance to hug your wife and kids again that you realize that - whether or not he/she deserved it - the person you killed was someone's son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, lover, father, mother. Whether or not the killing was justified, you will realize that there is another incomplete family in the world now...and you contributed to that. Legal justification and self-defense theory pale and dissapate for a moment while you digest those facts. Then they go away for a while after you remind yourself that you did what you had to do. But they'll come back...many times. The feelings will come back at the oddest times...watching tv, listening to the radio, washing dishes.
Personally, after coming back from Iraq it took about 9 months for me to start going through some of this. I find myself getting emotional about the dumbest stuff... songs on the radio, commercials with little kids, whatever...just dumb stuff that would have never have had this effect on me before.

The people we killed had it coming. They put themselves in a situation where there could only be one of us that walked away alive. They brought our violence upon themselves by threatening our lives. Our killings were justified. I have no regrets, no questions, no reservations. And I would do it again. I reacted honorably under fire, which is a question all of us have of ourselves until it is answered in absolute terms. But that's not where it stops. The fight is reactionary...no time to think. The thinking comes later.

And you know what? At the end of the day, the people we killed were fathers, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, and wives. The people we killed had hopes, desires, loves, and hates. Their blood was red. The look in their eyes as some lay dying was unmistakeably and hauntingly familiar. I would do it again, without hesitation...but you don't go through something like that and not carry it with you, not have it change you...the universe won't allow it.

Those who have killed and say they feel no remorse, or say that they do not question themselves as they lay silent in the dark, or say that they are not thankful as they hug their children... those people are either lying to themselves or they are much harder men than I am.

Me? I don't talk to my family about it because they wouldn't understand. I don't want my kids to have to share that knowledge yet. My wife definitely wouldn't understand...so unfortunately I can't speak to how loved ones would react. I can only say that it changes you... and it's inevitable that it also changes all who witness it..each in their own way.
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Old March 22, 2006, 06:52 PM   #63
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I am really impressed with a lot of the replies here. This subject was discussed here about a year ago, with the result being a lot of chest thumping and testosterone flowing, and little serious insight. I'm really glad to see that this thread is presenting some serious, soul-searching thoughts.

Let's face it; in our culture, we're bombarded from the day the doc spanks our behinds with the idea that killing people is wrong. It's reinforced almost daily in our churches, schools, literature, media, and even our daily conversations, and although a lot of that conditioning is subtle, it has its effect.

Not pretending to be a psychologist here, but I believe the problem is that sometimes nasty little gremlin we call our subconscious. We really are of two minds, that usually co-exist peacefully, until our conscious minds try to override what our subconscious has been programmed with over the years. That's when the problems start.

You're faced with a kill-or-be-killed situation, and your conscious mind is screaming "shoot!". But if you haven't previously convinced your subconscious of the need and justification, it's going to be screaming back "No no no no don't shoot! It's wrong!" Result? Hesitation, or even complete freeze up.

Now I believe we can train the subconscious to override this previous programming through education, serious training, and of course, a lot of serious meditation over the matter before it happens, so that we can react to save our lives. That, in essence, is what the military strives to do in boot camp, and in advanced training.

However, the subconscious mind is a powerful entity, and the dregs of that life long conditioning will remain, whether you're actually aware of it, or not. When you choose to override that conditioning during a critical incident, your subconscious will later protest, and that can take the form of nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, depression, and a whole host of other symptoms.

There is absolutely nothing "unmanly" about it. Freezing up when action is called for is the natural reaction to our two minds arguing. That can be overcome, as I said, by training, which is also a form of conditioning. Afterward, however, you can no more predict what sort of protest your subconscious is going to lodge, than you can predict the thoughts of another person on the same subject.

Given that NO one has total mastery over their subconscious minds, I think it's safe to say that a. You WILL have reactions to a critical incident, and b. you CANNOT predict what those reactions will be.
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