Guilt, Shame, and ForgivenessWarfare requires Servicemembers to make split-second decisions in situations where there may be ambiguity about the identity and location of the enemy. This ambiguity in a life-threatening moment can result in the deaths of non-combatants. In combat, trauma exposure comes not only through being a victim or witness to violence, but also through inflicting harm on others.
All military personnel are trained to understand that they may be called upon to risk their own lives and perhaps to injure or kill the enemy. It is harder to accept that the innocent may die as well. In addition, at times extended exposure to threats and losses can lead Servicemembers to violate rules of engagement by acting in unnecessarily and inappropriately aggressive ways toward the enemy or civilian noncombatants. It is not surprising then that problems with hostility, hatred, and guilt can arise as Servicemembers attempt to transition back to civilian life and come to terms with their experiences.