Soldiers: How do you deal with the possibility of being killed?

Basically what the title says. For all our soldiers out there who are serving in war zones (or know they will be in the near future), how do you deal with the possibility that you might be killed in action? Do you come to terms with it? Ignore it? Rationalize away the possibility? Are you afraid, or do you feel psychologically up to the task? Do you try to set things right with your loved ones at home before deploying?

Police officers or people from other professions that face the possibility of violent death are welcome to reply as well – as are military retirees.

I hope these aren’t too personal questions. My brother is shipping out for Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, and I can’t bring myself to ask him these questions. :frowning:

I have a will, a POA, and a fairly substantial life insurance policy in place. Ironically, I’m worth more dead than alive (financially, that is). Other than that, I try not to think about it, because it distracts from the job. Realistically, I’m a lot more fortunate than people on the ground because the people who would like to kill me tend not to have AAA or SAMs (since 2003, anyway) and I’ve yet to be on a base that has been shelled.

I suppose it could happen, but I don’t exactly dwell on it. I fit my chute, put on my survival equipment, and do the job. Fate takes care of the rest. The alternative is to be paralyzed by fear, and in a situation where you only have a second between life or death, that’s the worst possible thing that could happen. You tend to become a bit jaded in a war zone. Such is the nature of the job.

Off-topic, I know, but my life insurance policy excludes death resulting from acts of war; I thought this was a pretty standard rider for life insurance policies. Is there special military life insurance? I would think the premiums would be pretty expensive.

This is not standard for life insurance policies. It may be for the accidental death benefit rider, or for an accidental death only policy, but not for a standard life insurance policy.

What is a POA?

I’m guessing power of attorney. (I know the question wasn’t directed to me, but I do love to be helpful.)

Yes, there is a special serviceman’s life insurance, called SGLI (Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance), which is decently priced when not on active duty but is absolutely free when on active duty and pays to the tune of $400,000 if you are killed. Add to that the “death gratuity” of $100,000 and I’m worth a cool half mil dead. :smack:

Power of Attorney. A document that allows my wife to conduct affairs in my name while I am gone. The JAG (Judge Advocate General- military law corps) recommends that you have a will and a POA, so I review and update both of them every time I am set to leave the country.

You just don’t think about dying. I’ve known a few guys, very few, who dwelt on it all the time, to the point that they were pretty useless. They often get sent for psychology evaluation, although chaplains deal w/ this kind of thing much of the time. The worst times are when you can’t do anything in response, such as when you’re under sustained artillery attack and pinned down. Training takes over very quickly, but if there’s no way to take some action a frustration sets in.
I recall one incident. We were at a remote construction site, rebuilding the local highway. We didn’t get hit often, the enemy apparently believed it was to their advantage that we accomplish our work, but they occasionally harassed us as a distraction. There were four guys, all close friends, who’s job was to man a mortar. We came under mortar attack one night and our C.O. ordered these guys to return fire, but they didn’t respond. He sent a team to find out the problem and they discovered these guys cowering in a bunker. They had apparently convinced themselves that they couldn’t take the risk. They later claimed that the communications were out. I never saw them again after that, but I don’t recall ever hearing that they were charged. Peer pressure usually works to convince most worriers that it’s not productive, but in this case it seemed to work in reverse.

I was in the Navy. While this is a safer service by and large, when things go wrong the results can be absolutely horrendous. Read some accounts of the Cole bombing for a contemporary take on this.

You just train for every eventuality but otherwise don’t dwell on things.

I have a will, a power of attorney. I have explained to my nephews what I think ‘heroic medical efforts’ mean so there will be no misunderstandings.

But more on-topic, you do not think about it too much. After all I am (or was) better looking, trained and capable than the other guys. They will get it, not me. Then you take all the precautions you can, then you go out and do your job.

Well, I am not a soldier, but my father retired USAF and so did my brother. My husband is currently enlisted in the National Guard (truth is, I could spend a few pages listing the family members and friends I have in the military) and due for possible deployment to Iraq in a year (or less).

From a family member’s perspective, you just don’t think about it beyond making sure that the paperwork is in place. POA, will, and insurance. Right now, we are trying to correct some of the paperwork in the eventuality of my husband’s deployment – my name was misspelled on the insurance. We both know that he could get killed, but we don’t dwell on that thought.

You gotta go sometime.

That profound statement comes from a cop and 18 year veteran of the army (National Guard now). As you can tell I have put a lot of time into coming up with my philosophy.

It’s been 30 years since I was in the military, but as I recall we really didn’t think much about it. We trained like the dickens to try to prevent it from happening, in fact. Oh, we had the insurance policies, POA, all that, and there was evidence all around us that if we ever became involved in combat, the U.S. government was prepared to identify and dispose of our bodies (the dogtags weren’t a fashion statement!) But mostly we didn’t think about it. The Vietnam vets I talked to said survival was uppermost in their minds, not being killed.

That, I think sums it up quite nicely… you train and you work hard at survival skills and staying sharp… you don’t train to be killed.

Worrying about it is a distraction… trying to stay alive and ensuring the other guy (enemy, that is) does not, is the way to do it…

I was Navy - like Mr. Moto says, even while I was active duty during the first Gulf War I wasn’t really worried about enemy action. But during that same time, the steam lines on the USS Iwo Jima blew open, and cooked a whole engineroom of guys.

I would joke about it:

I’d taken the Boolean option for my military service: I’d either get out healthy and whole, or get killed.

I’d rented my life to Uncle Sam, with an option to buy.

And other than that, paid attention in Damage Control drills, and tried not to think about it.